Raiders to square off against a tough Detroit Denby squad


ALMONT — Unchartered territory. That is what the Almont Raiders (12-0) will hope to explore, pending a successful verdict in their upcoming Division 5 state semifinal game versus Detroit Denby (10-2) this Saturday at Walled Lake Central High School. That matchup lists a 1 p.m. starting time.
At stake is a trip to Detroit’s Ford Field for the Division 5 state championship contest the following Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Detroit Denby, runnerup in their division of the Public School League, enters the fray fresh off a 40-18 win against visiting Dearborn Heights Robichaud last Friday.

The Almont football team and their coach James Leusby celebrate a top regional finish following a win Saturday against Swan Valley.

Prior to that, Detroit Denby claimed victories in nine of 11 encounters. That stretch featured a 38-0 triumph against Detroit Cody at home; a 39-0 victory over Ecorse at home; a 42-0 road triumph against Detroit Southeastern; a 27-6 win over Detroit Renaissance at home; a 32-0 road victory against Detroit East English; a 32-14 loss to Detroit Martin Luther King at home; a 29-0 triumph over Detroit Western at home; a 34-14 win against Detroit Mumford at home; a 27-6 setback to Detroit Martin Luther King at Detroit Renaissance; a 26-0 victory over Detroit Communication Media Arts at home; and a 38-0 triumph against Clawson at home.
Almont, the Blue Water Area Conference champions, are coming off a 25-14 triumph against Saginaw Swan Valley at home.
Before that, Almont won all 11 of their gridiron assignments That impressive run included a 54-6 win against New Haven at home; a 56-7 victory over Imlay City at home; a 35-0 road triumph against Algonac; a a 61-20 road win over North Branch; a 42-0 victory over Cros-Lex at home; a 48-14 triumph against Armada at home; a 49-0 road win over Yale; a 50-12 victory against Clio at home; a 30-20 road triumph over Richmond; and a 22-20 road win against Marine City.
Almont Coach James Leusby reflected on his team’s regional championship win.
“We are excited for our kids and our community to be returning to the state semifinals for the first time since 2014,” Leusby commented. “We are also very appreciative of our staff, students and community members that pitched in to get our field and bleachers ready for Saturday’s game,” he noted.
“We have reached one of our goals in winning a regional championship, but like last week, our kids want more. We will have another big challenge in front of us with Detroit Denby. They have been in the playoffs seven consecutive seasons and they played into the regional championship round last year so we know that they have a lot of playoff experience.”
He knows the assignment ahead will not be an easy one.
“From what we see on film they have a lot of size on the offensive and defensive lines plus very good size and athleticism on both sides of the ball. They have two losses, but both were battles against Detroit Martin Lutheran King who is in the semifinals of Division 2. That shows they have been in tough games and have played top competition so they will have that big game experience.”
He says his ballclub can’t wait to see how they stack up.
“Our kids are up for the challenge and they are excited to have earned another week of football. They will put in another week of hard work and we will do our best to put on a good show for our fans this weekend. We will be on a neutral field on Saturday at Walled Lake Central but we are looking forward to our community making it feel like another home game for us.”
Leusby has Josh Hellebuyck (quarterback), Jack Paupert (running back), Michael Lulgjuraj (running back), Mason Smith (running back), Brandon Hunsaker (fullback/guard), Derek Johnston (center), Jacob Hausmann (guard), Nathan Kerby (tackle), Carson Tennant (tackle), Jackson Malcolm (tight end) and Colby Schapman (split end) penciled in as potential offensive starters.
He projects Nolan Panduren (end), Meric Okoniewski (end), Michael Rinke (tackle), Lane Jackson (tackle), Landon Kruse (linebacker), Caleb Weigand (back), Jacob Castillo (back), Paupert (back) and Schapman (back) as his likely defensive starters.
The winner of this Saturday’s clash will meet the victor of a game between Kingsley and Lansing Catholic in the Division 5 state championship game Saturday, November 30 at Detroit’s Ford Field. That matchup lists a 4:30 p.m. starting time.

Kevin Kissane has been covering high school sports for the Tri-City Times since 1985. When not standing on a field or court with his camera and notepad, he enjoys golf, travel and family. Kevin is a 1980 graduate of Capac High School, and is also a grad of St. Clair Community College and earned a degree in journalism from Central Michigan University.