Before the season started, I asked Fenton football coach Jeff Setzke whether he thought Fenton's recent success along with the fact that the Metro League as a whole has produced several players who have played Division I and Division II college football in recent years was doing anything to change the perception of the league.
Setzke was blunt in his response. "No, to be honest," he said.
Fairly or not, a perception has been created and perpetuated by some members of the media in recent years that Metro teams don't perform well in the postseason. This has caused several Metro teams with great records or accomplishments to get shut out of votings for state rankings or individual awards over the years. Former Lapeer East standout Jake Long, for example, who went on to become an All-American at the University of Michigan and the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, was not even an All-State selection in high school.
But, propelled by those playoff wins over perennial powers Midland and Midland Dow last season, Fenton has suddenly gained some attention. The Detroit Free Press released its prep football rankings this week and had the Tigers rated as the 23rd best team in the state, quite an accomplishment for a team that. Fenton is the only Genesee County team to make the Free Press rankings.
After the team's season-opening win against Lapeer West, Setzke was asked about the ranking and said it's not something the team is thinking about.
"We appreciate being ranked that high, it's nice that they consider us," Setzke said. "But we still have a lot of work to do, we're not the 23rd best team in the state yet by any stretch of the imagination."
For half of Friday's game against West, Fenton looked every bit like one of the top teams in the state. Offensively, Fenton's fast-paced offense kept West's defense off balance and confused, allowing some big plays, including a 43-yard touchdown run by Gerad Wegener.
Defensively, Fenton did a good job of pressuring West quarterbacks David Price and Hunter Sharrard. A big part of West's offense is getting the ball to big play receiver Zeshawn Jones-Parker, and in the first half, the quarterbacks didn't have enough time to allow Jones-Parker to get deep enough into his routes.
The second half, however, showed some things that Fenton will have to fix. West was able to move the ball some because they stopped having their receivers run deep routes and instead went to more short, quick passes. One of these plays allowed Jones-Parker to turn a short pass into a 60-yard touchdown.
As Setzke noted, whether the game ended up being closer than Fenton would've liked or not, Fenton still came away with a tough road win over a team that also has league title aspirations. Unfortunately, things get no easier for the Tigers as they host perennial league power Linden Thursday. If Fenton is able to come away with another tough win, the Tigers would clearly establish themselves as a favorite for the league title.