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4Frenzy Football Notebook: Undefeated Chippewa Valley looks to improve; 5 key games this week

Oak Park and Birmingham Groves playing for division lead

Chippewa Valley Big Reds 2017
Chippewa Valley Big Reds 2017

Here’s a frightening thought, one that might scare opposing football teams more than a screening of “It.”

Chippewa Valley coach Scott Merchant thinks his undefeated football team can play even better.

Why is that scary? Well, Merchant’s Big Reds are a talented, deep and experienced team. They have won their first three games -- including a victory over Macomb Area Division rival Romeo -- by an average margin of 21.7 points.

“I’d say we’re a work in progress,” Merchant said. “I think we’ve improved each week. The exciting thing is I think we have a ways to go.”

That may not be exciting for opponents, but that could mean big things for the Big Reds. They have a deep team - 73 players are on the varsity roster - that has experience - four players started as sophomores on last year’s team that went 6-4.

Merchant said the defense has performed the most consistently of any unit on the team.

Senior Dwayne Lewis, a 6-foot-4, 325-pound nose guard, anchors the defensive line.

“He’s a space eater,” Merchant said. “It’s very difficult to run when he’s in there.”

Junior inside linebacker Marcel Lewis already has received scholarship offers from Central Michigan and Kent State, and senior outside linebacker Brian Schieweck also has played well, Merchant said.

Senior Shakur McGarrity is another big defensive lineman, and senior defensive back Jalen Jennings leads the secondary.

“They’ve just been really steady,” Merchant said. “They’ve been consistent. They’ve been communicating well.”

On offense, Tommy Schuster returns after starting at quarterback last season. Through the first three games in his junior year, Schuster has thrown six touchdown passes and only one interception.

Schuster has a trio of talented receivers in Jon’Naize Owens (two touchdown receptions vs. Romeo), David Ellis and Jacob Rybicki.

On the ground, the Big Reds can turn to junior running back Andre Chenault. Senior running back D’Lano Woods, playing in his first season of varsity football, rushed for two touchdowns against Cousino last week.

“I’d like to say we’re a multi-dimensional team,” Merchant said. “We’re going to take whatever the defense gives us.”

Special teams also have been special for Chippewa Valley. The Big Reds blocked two punts against Lake Orion in Week 1; blocked another that they returned for a touchdown against Romeo; and intercepted a pass off a fake punt and returned it for a TD against Cousino.

Despite his team’s success, Merchant believes there’s room for improvement. The team can cut down on penalties and mental mistakes, “all things that are correctable,” Merchant said.

Merchant also knows his team must play better this week against defending MAC Red Division champion Utica Eisenhower.

The Eagles enter the game with a 3-0 record. They have outscored their opponents - all of whom have winning records - by a combined score of 108-23.

“It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” Merchant said. “We know we have to go through Eisenhower to win the MAC Red.”

Cancer fundraiser

For Chippewa Valley, the matchup with Eisenhower has extra meaning. It’s also the team’s Purple Cancer Awareness game in which the Big Reds will raise money for cancer charities.

“It’s a big deal,” Merchant said. “All of our players and coaches will be playing for someone.”
Chippewa Valley volleyball coach Nicole Wouters, whom the school has rallied around in her fight against cancer, will serve as the football team’s honorary captain.

“It really is an emotional thing,” Merchant said.

Other games to watch

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2017 Oak Park Knights

Clarkston at West Bloomfield: Clarkston has made 14 straight playoff appearances, and the Wolves look on their way to their 15th straight after defeating Bloomfield Hills to improve to 3-0. West Bloomfield, which lost its first two games by a combined nine points, is coming off its first win of the season, a 49-21 decision over Lake Orion.

Oak Park at Birmingham Groves: After losing its opener to Eisenhower, Oak Park has won its next two games by a combined score of 76-0. Groves is undefeated and is coming off a 24-0 victory over Berkley last week. The winner will keep pace at the top of the OAA White Division.

Auburn Hills Oakland Christian at Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest: The only two undefeated teams in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference meet.

Romulus at Dearborn Heights Robichaud: Romulus, which won nine games a year ago, is coming off its first win of the season, a 14-12 triumph over Redford Union. Dearborn Heights Robichaud already has doubled its win total from last season after defeating Dearborn Heights Annapolis 42-16 for its second victory of 2017.

Wide-open division

Each of the seven teams in the Southeastern Conference White Division already has at least one league loss. Pinckney, Tecumseh and Ypsilanti are all tied for the league lead with 2-1 records. Adrian and Chelsea are just one half-game behind at 1-1.

Numbers to know

Six: The number of overtime games in Week 3.

90: The number of points scored in Reading’s 52-38 victory over Homer, the most in a Week 3 game.

734: The number of combined victories by coaches John Herrington and Bob Lantzy, whose teams faced each other last week. Herrington’s Farmington Hills Harrison team defeated Lantzy’s Rochester Hills Stoney Creek squad 47-8.