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After COVID hurdles, Stevenson seniors to savor every second of ’22

 After COVID hurdles, Stevenson seniors to savor every second of ’22

Brian Watkins (left) and Charlie Davidek will play key roles in Livonia Stevenson’s 2022 season.

Spartan senior linemen embrace return to normalcy, on field and off

Moments before kickoff under the Friday night lights at Livonia Stevenson, with the band playing the school’s fight song and the always-ramped-up student cheering section yelling at the top of their lungs, well, it’s an almost-impossible feeling to describe for the players as they prepare to take the field.

“Literally, you can feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up,” said senior two-way line standout Charlie Davidek. “When we take the field, two seniors lead us out, one carrying the Stevenson flag, the other the United States flag. It’s amazing.”

Following an abbreviated, masked-up 2020 season and an almost-back-to-normal 2021 campaign, the Spartans are embracing the opportunity to play with no barriers when they kick off the 2022 season Thursday night at home against Howell.

“I didn’t start playing football until my freshman year at Stevenson, and I am so grateful for the experience of playing four years here,” said Brian Watkins, like Davidek a two-way starter in the trenches. “I’ve learned so much from playing football. I’m more confident. I don’t step back now, I step forward. Even if I have a 6-foot-5, 300 pound guy lined up across from me, I feel I’m better than him. That’s the mentality I have to have.”

Charlie Davidek brings down a Westland John Glenn ball carrier

Both Watkins and Davidek will play instrumental roles for the Spartans this season. Davidek is a three-year starter at center and on the defensive line.

“I knew we had something special in Chuck early on,” Stevenson head coach Randy Micallef said. “His first game on varsity as a sophomore, we lined him up against some guys from Belleville who were going to (play college football for) Alabama and he more than held his own.

“He’s a tremendous leader: vocal, outworks everybody. He’s a great, prototypical high school football player who is going to get a chance to play at the next level.”

Opponents who underestimate the 5-foot-6 Watkins are in for a long night, Micallef assured.

“Brian knows he’s at a little disadvantage because of his height, but he makes up for it with his quickness,” Micallef said. “He can start on the defensive line or at either guard position on offense. He’s always here, very dedicated.

“During games we’re always reminding the linemen to stay low. When we do, Brian just kind of looks at us and laughs. He’s like, ‘How much lower can I get?'”

Stevenson Head Coach Randy Micallef introduced Brian Watkins and Charlie Davidek at the KLAA Football Media Day event

Both seniors still remember their pre-Stevenson days when they were first approached by Spartan varsity players at Holmes Middle School.

“I remember when I was in eighth grade, a couple senior Stevenson players walking up to me and saying, ‘You look like you could play football’, even though I had never played,” Watkins said, smiling. “I was like, ‘I’ll give it a try.’ A few weeks later they were back in the cafeteria and they asked me again if I was going to play.”

Davidek, the youngest brother of a trio of Davideks to play for Stevenson, vividly remembers the pre-season training sessions before his freshman season.

“I remember working out in the weight room in the winter and the conditioning work in the spring and summer,” he said. “It wasn’t really an orientation to football to me because I had been around it so long, playing youth football and watching my brothers.”

Both players agree their first three years of high school have cruised by rapidly.

“Yeah, especially with everything that went along with COVID,” Davidek said.

“I feel like I’m faster, strong, smarter,” Watkins added. “I’ve learned so much since my freshman year.”

Charlie Davidek carries the ball for the LJAL Eagles during his pre Stevenson days

Davidek has been on an accelerated path to varsity since his freshman season, when he was promoted to the junior varsity team before making the jump to varsity as a sophomore.

“My freshman year, I was one of the biggest kids, at least that we had,” he said. “I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I’m not going to get messed with or anything. Then I got move up to JV and got knocked around. Getting moved up to varsity as a sophomore was an even bigger jump because I was going up against 18-year-olds who weighed 300 pounds and I was a 240-pound 15-year-old.

“I’ve grown a lot since then, though, so I’m not getting knocked around as much.”

If you have a story idea for SocialHouseNews.com, please contact Editor-In-Chief Ed Wright at 734-664-4657 or edwright@socialhousenews.com.

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