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Teammates hope alma maters meet in championship

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

The Michigan high schools that Justin Abdelkader and Danny DeKeyser attended could meet in the state's Division 2 football championship game on Nov. 28 at Ford Field.

DETROIT – Hockey players love to talk about the rivalries that they had before they turned pro. Usually those discussions are limited to college alma maters, not the high school level.

But this week, two Red Wings – defenseman Danny DeKeyser and forward Justin Abdelkader – were unaware that their high schools are on a football collision course.

Should DeKeyser’s Warren De La Salle and Abdelkader’s Muskegon Mona Shores win two more playoff games, their schools would meet at for the Division 2 state championship at Detroit’s Ford Field the day after Thanksgiving.

“That would be awesome,” said DeKeyser, who’s Pilots face league rival Birmingham Brother Rice on Saturday. “We’d definitely have a nice little rivalry game going on in here; maybe see if he wants to make a little bet or something.”

When it comes to playoff football, the two schools have contrasting pasts. The Pilots have qualified for the postseason eight of the past nine seasons, even reaching the Division 2 championship game in 2006 and 2008, DeKeyser’s senior year. But De La Salle lost both times to Muskegon, which is Mona Shores’ archrival.

“Ever since I left there I always try to keep track of them,” said DeKeyser, who did not play football. “When I did go to school there they made a lot of good playoff runs, including a couple times down to Ford Field. I think it’s great every time they can do good.”

Meanwhile, Abdelkader was a two-year, varsity quarterback in back to back three-win seasons for the Sailors. Last season was the first year they reached the playoffs, and two weeks ago the Sailors enjoyed their first ever postseason victory, downing Caledonia, 42-14.

So excited to see the enthusiasm surrounding the football team, Abdelkader took to social media to wish the Sailors well before their game against Midland Dow last week, writing on Twitter: “Good luck @shoressailors tonight! One game at a time! Road to Ford Field #leaveitonthefield”.

“I haven’t seen them play this year, obviously with our schedule in the fall we’re really busy,” said Abdelkader, about his alma mater, which is closer in proximity to Grand Rapids than it is Detroit. “I know they have a really good team. They have a college quarterback (recruit Tyree Jackson) that started four years for them, I think that’s big. He’s grown under the system and learned that way.

“For us at Mona Shores, we haven’t seen much success with the football team. It’s nice to have seen them win their first ever playoff football game a few weeks back and beat our cross-town rival Muskegon the week before that. It’s been fun to watch and exciting to see.”

Abdelkader, who graduated from Mona Shores in 2005, will be beside himself should the Sailors make it to Ford Field. And more than better, he said, should his alma mater face his DeKeyser’s school in the title game.

“That would be really cool,” Abdelkader said. “Unfortunately, I looked at our schedule and we’re going to be gone on Friday (at New Jersey) when they would play. But it would be something else. We’d have to have something on the line for that game for sure.”

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