MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) — There’s no place like home.
After spending the first two years of his high school career at Detroit Catholic Central, junior quarterback Austin Brown decided he wanted to play for his hometown team, the Madison Heights Madison.
The decision proved to be a good one, as Brown led the Eagles to their first regional championship since 2007 and earned himself The Associated Press Division 7-8 high school football Player of the Year honors.
“I have known a bunch of these guys growing up and have had a great relationship with them, so it was easy to come in and be part of this team,” Brown said of joining Madison, where his father Jimmy Brown is the athletic director. “There was no added pressure. I was coming home, so it was pretty relaxing. It just felt right.”
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Brown gave Madison a spread passing attack that was difficult to defend. He threw for 3,062 yards and 33 touchdowns while also rushing for over 300 yards and seven touchdowns, leading the Eagles to the Division 7 semifinals.
“We knew with someone like Austin, our program was going to go to the next level,” Madison coach James Rogers said. “We have always had talent and we have always had athletes, but we had lacked in a real quarterback the last few years. Having a player like Austin at quarterback has really allowed us to showcase what kind of talent we have had at Madison.”
Brown helped lead Detroit Catholic Central to the Division 1 state finals in 2016, but suffered a broken leg in the semifinals. The long rehab and the new team helped him find the motivation to come back stronger in 2017.
“That got me hungry to really have a great year and try to lead Madison to a championship,” Brown said of the injury. “There’s not a lot of freshmen or sophomores that get an opportunity to play that deep into the playoffs, especially at the Division 1 level. It gave me a lot of confidence, especially as we got deeper into the playoffs.”
Joining Brown as a first team quarterback is Tate Hausbeck of Saginaw Nouvel. The first team running backs are Drew Stout of Carson City-Crystal, Wyatt Cool of Mendon, Griffin Kelly of Frankfort and Cal Gilling of Gaylord St. Mary’s.
Brown’s top target, Zyaire Croskey of Madison Heights Madison joins Evan Barton of Fulton-Middleton, Joe Roth of Homer and Jeff Rahilly of Newberry as the first team receivers.
Breckenridge’s Kenyon Story, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s Cody Brownell, Ottawa Lake Whiteford’s Lucas Tesznar, Pewamo-Westphalia’s Jimmy Lehman, Decatur’s Anthony Hicks, Muskegon Catholic Central’s Jacob Martinez, Madison Heights Madison’s Chauncey Ernest, New Lothrop’s Jayson Tunstall, Frankfort’s Matthew Stefanski and Alcona’s Devon Mills make up the all state linemen on the first team.
Eric Cassiday of Beaverton, Hunter Smith of Breckenridge, Alex Wrobel of Saginaw Nouvel, Harley McCaskey of Morenci, Reece Schreckengust of Saugatuck, Daniel Macks of Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest and Peter Heikkinen of Lake Linden Hubbel were selected as first team linebackers.
First team defensive backs are Xander Smith of Cassopolis, Cameron Martinez of Muskegon Catholic Central and Adam Baker of Adrian Lenawee Christian.
Bradley Dunn of Saugatuck, Nathan Vickery of Climax-Scotts and Tyrese Hunt-Thompson of Cassopolis were all named first team specialists while Mason Ruddy of New Lothrop was the first team kicker and Alex Villegas of Elk Rapids earned first team punting honors.
Michael Pruchnicki of Clarkston Everest Collegiate is the coach of the year.
Voting was by a panel of AP member sportswriters from around the state.