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Prep football preview: No. 3 Grand Blanc ready to break through

1:00 AM, Aug. 21, 2012 EDT

Quarterback Bart Williams established himself in the playoffs last year. He'll be counted on for Grand Blanc to break through. / Photos by William Archie/Detroit Free Press

If there is a football program on the brink of greatness it just might be Grand Blanc.

There has been a gradual improvement in the program over the last few seasons, and it showed in the state playoffs in November when the Bobcats beat Holt, 59-52, and Midland, 49-35, before losing to Rockford, 30-28, in the Division 1 regional finals.

"I think we're at the point that we feel like we can play with anyone at any time," Grand Blanc coach Joe Delaney said. "I think there used to be a time where we'd look at a Clarkston or a Rockford or a Midland and kind of cringe. Now we feel like, 'Yeah bring 'em on. We'll play 'em and I think we'll do well.' "

There might be a direct correlation between Grand Blanc's resurgence and its recent status as a member of the Kensington-Lakes Athletic Association.

Three years ago Grand Blanc left the Big Nine, a once competitive conference that had shrunk to five members and is now dissolved.

"All those years I coached in the Big Nine, there were times when there were some teams that were not very good and you knew it and the kids knew it," Delaney said. "We could kind of walk in there and play and we'll beat them. Well, football is a tough game to turn the switch on and off. You have to play at a high level all of the time or somebody's going to knock you off."

The KLAA had a vacancy when the second high school in Howell never opened and Grand Blanc, a big Class A school, was happy to fill the void.

The changing of leagues might have also affected the mind-set of the Grand Blanc athletes, who Delaney senses are more dedicated than in past years.

"Each year I feel a little bit better about how they're picking things up," he said. "They want to play a little bit more than I thought they did maybe 10 to 15 years ago. Their attitude is definitely different. We had 80-plus varsity and JV kids running in the heat in conditioning and nobody was forcing them to be out there. They just want to be good."

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The 30-28 loss to Ralph Munger's Rockford team was difficult to accept because the Bobcats played well enough to win. It was a far cry from the 2004 playoff game when Rockford embarrassed Grand Blanc, 42-13.

"Year in and year out they're tough and Ralph has that thing going like a well-oiled machine," Delaney said. "I looked at the 2004 video and they just crushed us. We were not even on the same level playing with them.

"But I looked last year and after I watched the film, we could have beat them. We could have beat them and we should have beat them. It's a different attitude for the kids and for us as coaches. We had a chance and didn't get it done, but at least we feel like we're there with them."

Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or mmccabe@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.

Join us every Friday night during the season for score updates and discussion in our prep football live blog. And if you're at a game and want to contribute score updates, use the #mipreps hash tag.

More Details: Scouting the Bobcats

Coach: Joe Delaney, 19th season at Grand Blanc.

What makes Grand Blanc good: There will be a good balance between the pass and the run after Bart Williams emerged as a top-flight passer last season, especially in the three state playoffs where he passed for over 1,000 yards. A key will be how the defense improves.

Main man: Luke MacLean is the heart and soul of the defense. At 6-feet-4, 240 pounds he is as instinctive a player as you will find. He honed those instincts with hours of film work. He led Grand Blanc with 115 tackles as a junior.

Join us every Friday night during the season for score updates and discussion in our prep football live blog. And if you're at a game and want to contribute score updates, use the #mipreps hash tag.



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