Macomb County football powers meet in the 4Frenzy Game of the Week
Dakota vs Chippewa Valley with all kinds of revenge story lines in play
MACOMB COUNTY – Clinton Township Chippewa Valley and Macomb Dakota have made their points -- lots of ’em -- on the football field this season.
The two arch-rivals will try to score more points and prove a much larger one when they face off on Friday night at Chippewa Valley -- who will advance in the Division 1 state high school football playoffs.
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“It’s always the most important game on the schedule,” Dakota coach Greg Baur said. “When it’s the playoffs, it just gets amplified. It’s what high school football is all about.”
Less than five miles separate the two schools, which are both part of the Chippewa Valley Schools district.
They also are foes in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division. So players and coaches know each other well, and there should be a raucous atmosphere Friday night.
“It’s what every big-time rivalry is like,” Chippewa Valley coach Scott Merchant said. “Every game counts the same, but we all know that there are some games that have something extra.”
The teams share something extra this season: high-scoring offenses.
Chippewa Valley enters the game averaging 39.2 points per game, while Dakota comes in averaging a school-record 37.2 points per game.
Junior quarterback Mark Tocco leads Dakota, which is 7-3 after defeating Anchor Bay 42-14 in the first round of playoffs. Tocco has passed for 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns, and he has rushed for 600 more yards and two TDs.
“Mark’s been outstanding,” Baur said.
Tocco’s top target is senior wide receiver Ronye Walker. He caught two long TD passes against Anchor Bay, and he has seven touchdown receptions on the season.
“He’s kind of our big play guy,” Baur said.
Dustin Solomon, who had two touchdowns against Anchor Bay, heads up the ground game, and he’s also a key contributor on defense for the Cougars.
“They do what they do well,” Merchant said. “They’re a quality football team.”
The same could be said for Chippewa Valley, which improved to 9-1 after defeating Warren-Mott 41-7 last week in the first round of the playoffs.
“They’re very experienced -- they have a lot seniors -- and they’re very skilled,” Baur said.
Junior quarterback Tommy Schuster has thrown 22 touchdown passes and only two interceptions for the Big Reds.
“Tommy does a great job of leading our offense,” Merchant said.
Schuster has spread the ball around to wide receivers Jacob Rybicki, David Ellis and Jon’Naize Owens. Rybicki leads the team in receptions and caught a touchdown pass against Anchor Bay, and Ellis has 520 receiving yards this season.
Chippewa Valley also has a balanced running game. Junior Ja’Von Kimpson has rushed for 500 yards, junior Andre Chenault added 450 rushing yards, and senior D’Lano Woods has accounted for 250 more rushing yards.
“The thing about our offense is we spread the ball around a lot,” Merchant said. “That makes us tough to defend.”
Defensively, Chippewa Valley has proved stout. The Big Reds are allowing 11.2 points per game, and they have surrendered a total of 20 points in their last five games.
Junior middle linebacker Marcel Lewis paces the defense. Lewis already has scholarship offers from Iowa State, Central Michigan and Kent State.
Defensive lineman Kevin Krasniqi leads the team in tackles for a loss. Other top contributors are safety Cardell Snorton and outside linebacker Brian Schieweck.
“They’re playing very aggressive, physical football,” Merchant said. “It’s kind of contagious. Everyone wants to be a part of it.”
This marks the 29th time the two teams have played since the Dakota program began in 1996, according to michigan-football.com. And this is the 10th time they’ve met in the playoffs.
“It’s never easy playing a team twice in the same season,” Merchant said. “It’s like a chess match.”
Chippewa Valley hopes to beat Dakota for the second time this year. The Big Reds defeated the Cougars 37-7 on Oct. 6.
Last year, Chippewa Valley also defeated Dakota in the regular season. But the Cougars avenged that setback with a 48-27 victory over the Big Reds in the playoffs.
And here the two teams are again.
“We’re hoping to duplicate that this year,” Baur said.
Countered Merchant: “We want to make sure it doesn’t happen again this year.”
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