They saved their best seasons for their senior years, and their performances lifted their teams to great heights.
Dow High wide receiver Mike Robb, Meridian quarterback Christian Petre, and Freeland running back/linebacker Ben Rybicki made the most of their opportunities to help their teams combine for 31 wins, including five in the playoffs.
Robb, Petre, and Rybicki are tri-captains of the Midland Daily News All-Area Football Dream Team.
Robb, a 6-foot, 6-inch, 215-pound three-year varsity player, amassed 67 catches for 1,028 yards and 12 touchdowns this year, giving him school career records of 169 catches and 28 TD catches.
Robb, a Dream Team player for the second straight year, was voted All-State Special Mention in Division 1-2 and MVP of the Saginaw Valley League Blue Division, as Dow won its first Division 2 district title in 18 years and finished 10-2.
“He was a very good receiver for us as a sophomore, and as a junior he expanded on that,” Dow coach Jason Watkins said of Robb. “This year, in his senior year, everybody was putting their best corner(back) on him. But he still got compelling statistics and made big plays in big games.”
And over the final four weeks, including three playoff games, Robb stepped up his game even more, playing on defense for the first time and collecting four interceptions over that span, two of which he returned for touchdowns. In an electrifying performance on Oct. 23, Robb caught four touchdown passes and returned an interception for another score in a 49-21 win over Midland High.
“The defensive part was the next step in Mike’s evolution as a player,” Watkins said. “He bought into it 110 percent. That really demonstrated his maturity and how much he’s grown. That was kind of the icing on the cake to the great career he’s had at Dow. I was happy for him and real proud of how he embraced that added challenge at the end of his senior year.”
Robb has received football scholarship offers from Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), and Illinois State, but has not yet made a decision about where he will go.
In addition to Petre, the other Dream Team quarterbacks are Dow High junior Bruce Mann, Midland High senior Payton DeWildt, and Merrill senior Trent Lutzke.
Mann, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior, was the catalyst for the Chargers’ high-scoring offense. Accurate, strong, and quick, he completed 186 of 288 passes for 2,934 yards and 37 touchdowns with nine interceptions, while leading the team in rushing with 680 yards and scoring 10 TDs on the ground.
Mann was one of two quarterbacks to earn All-State First Team in Division 1-2, along with making the SVL Blue First Team.
“He really made just a tremendous amount of progress as the season went on,” Watkins said of Mann, who was in first season as the Dow starter. “His touch on the ball, and his ability to know what velocity and arc to put on the ball (improved greatly). Bruce runs the ball well and he’s a big, strong, physical kid, which makes him more durable. His ability to take off and run really adds a dimension to our offense.”
With still a year left of high school, Mann has already drawn a lot of interest from Division I programs.