- Associated Press - Friday, November 27, 2015

ORCHARD LAKE, Mich. (AP) - Big brother may know best, but when all is said and done, Josh Ross may prove to be the best football player in the Ross household.

Growing up five years younger than his older brother James, one of the leaders of the University of Michigan’s vaunted defense, Josh Ross has learned to deal with the comparisons to James - one of the best football players to ever grace the field at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.

How does he deal with it? He just goes out and plays - and has fun doing it.

“Josh is so easygoing. It’s one of the greatest qualities he has,” St. Mary’s head coach George Porritt said of his standout junior linebacker. “He loves his brother and he does go to him for a lot of things, but he’s his own man. He’s going to make his own decisions, whether it’s with schooling, or playing football.”

James was offered scholarships by a number of elite college programs. Josh has already received nine, including those from Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma. He has not made a commitment, as he’s focused on leading his Eaglets to a second straight Division 3 state championship.

Through 12 games, Ross leads his team with 110 solo and 173 total tackles - including 22 for a loss - to go with nine caused fumbles, eight sacks and three interceptions from his linebacker position. For his efforts, Ross was voted Division 3-4 Player of the Year by a panel of Associated Press sportswriters from around the state.

“What separates Josh from a lot of players is his love for the game,” said Porritt, whose team beat East Grand Rapids Saturday to advance to the Division 3 title game. “And he reads the game so quick, and that makes him a faster player. Yes he’s got the size and strength, he’s 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, but you add that to his ability to make those quick reads and adjustments during the play and that’s what makes him the tremendous player he is.”

Ross was one of four St. Mary’s players named first team all-state. K.J. Hamler earned the honor as a specialist, John Kwiecinski as a kicker and Cameron Kolwich as a lineman.

The rest of the all-state linemen included Johnathan Berghorst of Zeeland East, Ty McTaggert of Chelsea, Kyle Sassack of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, Jeremiah Tyler of Detroit Country Day, Zach Vanvalkenburg of Zeeland West and Heath Williams of East Lansing.

Defensively, linebackers Luke Adams of Notre Dame Prep, Hunter Buczkowski of Mount Pleasant and Loren Sauve of Trenton, along with defensive backs Chris Bergin of Detroit Country Day, Alonzo McCoy of Redford Thurston and John Wixson of Remus Chippewa Hills all made the All-State cut.

Senior Omar Salih of Detroit Cesar Chavez was one of two quarterbacks named to the team after throwing for 4,173 yards and 45 touchdowns this season. Comstock Park’s Pat Naughton was the other quarterback honored.

At running back, Forrest Jackson of Marshall, Mitch Meger of Tecumseh, Isaiah Miller of Edwardsburg and Darius Perisec of Zeeland West all rushed for more than 1,400 yards each and were selected to the team.

Khylin Barton of Zeeland East, Jalen Martin of Harper Woods Chandler Park, Nick Turowski of Comstock Park and Nick Vondra of Mason were the All-State wide receivers.

Flint Powers senior Noah Sargent was an All-State specialist - along with Hamler - and Will Nagel of DeWitt was the first-team punter.

Benton Harbor’s Elliot Uzelac earned the Coach of the Year honor after leading the Tigers to their first-ever state playoff appearance. The school had won just four games over the previous eight seasons.

Voting was by a panel of AP member sportswriters from around the state.

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