Defensive Duo Spurs PHN's Historic Run

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 7, 2018

Gameplanning around Braiden McGregor seemed like a no-brainer coming into the season for Port Huron Northern’s opponents.

While avoiding the 6-foot-5, 250-pound junior linebacker and defensive end is still pretty wise, it’s not exactly working thanks to the emergence of senior defensive lineman Maurice Powell and an overall outstanding supporting cast.

“I think it’s just the whole team – I don’t think it’s one person or anything like that. It’s just us working together as a team every day and every game,” said McGregor, who has 16 Division I college offers, including from the Big Ten’s elite and Notre Dame. “I don’t think they can really gameplan around one person, because we have another person that steps up and makes plays.”

The Huskies will play for their first Regional title Friday night at home against Warren DeLaSalle. With a pair of playoff wins and a Macomb Area Conference Blue title already under their belt, this already has been the most successful season in program history regardless of what happens against the reigning Division 2 champion.

That success can be attributed in large part to the Northern defense, which is allowing 11.6 points per game, its best effort since 2010 when the team allowed a paltry 9.8 per contest. 

“It’s been truly energetic throughout the whole wave of the defense,” Powell said. “We all feed off of each other’s energy, and we work hard in practice every day. We don’t give in, and we play hard every game.”

Powell has been a problem for opposing offenses all fall, as he racked up 75 tackles with 16 tackles for loss, 6½ sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries (including one returned for a touchdown) during the regular season.

His outstanding season has led to interest from Division I and II collegiate programs. While he doesn’t have an offer yet, he has taken recent trips to Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Michigan University. He’ll head to Northwood for an official visit in December.

“It’s been nice, of course to have the talent with those kids, and also the supporting cast they have around them,” Northern coach Larry Roelens said. “Those two guys right there are leaders, too. They come out and work just as hard as anyone else, if not harder than anyone else, and kids see that and they feed off it. It’s been amazing. The kids are buying in and feeding off each other, and the school and the staff and the students, it’s been phenomenal.”

Both players are versatile, and defensive coordinator Brett VanDrew has used Powell all over the defensive line, while using McGregor essentially everywhere but cornerback. Their abilities, along with the emergence of players like middle linebacker Austin Eagle (who had the game-clinching interception in overtime of the District title game against St. Clair Shores Lakeview), has made gameplanning that much more difficult for opposing offenses.

The defense’s play as a whole, meanwhile, has made things easier for Roelens, who calls the offensive plays.

“Knowing you have a good defense and knowing we run the ball 70 percent of the time, it helps control the game and dictate the clock, and that’s kind of how we’re built,” Roelens said. “We just kind of methodically make our way down the field and put some points on the board, and know our defense is going to hold strong. If we just keep chewing clock and playing field position, we’ll be all right.”

Neither player has shied away from the spotlight their success, and that of the team, has brought upon them. When asked if they have to block out all of the eyes that now are watching them on the field, both smiled and laughed it off.

“Whatever happens, happens,” Powell said. “You just have to make it happen. … You have to have fun while you’re playing.”

Both also realize the eyes on them aren’t just those of college scouts, but a younger generation of players in Port Huron. They’re excited to help show them the way.

“All this recruiting stuff has really helped out with bringing football back to Port Huron, especially with the younger kids like TAFL (Thumb Area Football League, the area’s youth program),” McGregor said. “My mom and dad’s friend, he’s a coach there and they all just want to be like No. 17 (McGregor), I guess. I went to a couple of their practices, and it’s cool, but I’m just happy that football is starting to pick up in the area again. I hope that next year, we can be a pretty big powerhouse again, then keep it going.”

The attention given highly-recruited prospects and a winning program also benefits the other current players on the team.

“Everything goes hand in hand,” Roelens said. “The more football games you win, the more exposure you’re going to get, and you have a good supporting cast of the other kids on the team that just keep working in the weight room in the offseason and the winter time, because they never know when they’re going to get seen, too.”

Northern’s next opponent – DeLaSalle – is no stranger to the spotlight winning and top recruits can bring to a program. The Pilots ended Northern’s season in the District Final a year ago and will be considered favorites by most Friday night, despite having to travel to Northern’s home field.

After spending the entire season playing as if everyone was watching, the Huskies feel they’re ready for the spotlight.

“We’re not afraid of anybody,” Powell said. “We’ll play anybody – we're not scared of anybody. We play with heart night in and night out, and we won’t back down from a challenge. We love challenges, and we live for stuff like this.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTO: Port Huron Northern’s Braiden McGregor (17) and Maurice Powell celebrate a big play during the Oct. 5 21-14 win over Port Huron. (Photo by Delta Imaging.)

MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 27, 2023

The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.

The one-day camps will take place between May 15-18 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.

Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.

“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”

Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.

All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.

“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”

The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.