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Rematches dominate Round 2 of Michigan high school football playoffs

Chippewa Valley defeated Macomb Dakota 24-17 on Sept. 21. They'll play again on Nov. 2 in the MHSAA playoffs.
Chippewa Valley defeated Macomb Dakota 24-17 on Sept. 21. They'll play again on Nov. 2 in the MHSAA playoffs.

There’s a different type of instant replay in the high school football playoffs this weekend.

Seventeen of the 64 second-round games -- more than 25 percent --  are rematches from last year’s postseason, adding an extra layer of intrigue to the dramatic win-or-go-home format.

“It just amplifies everything,” said Macomb Dakota coach Greg Baur, whose team will take on league rival Chippewa Valley in the Division 1 playoffs for the third straight year. “It’s already pretty intense.”

Opponents in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division, Chippewa Valley and Dakota will meet for the sixth time in three years. Yet it’s just one example of a familiar scene that will play out from the Thumb to Lake Michigan and from Detroit to Traverse City.

In Division 1, Detroit Cass Tech will take on Dearborn Fordson for the fifth straight year in the postseason. The Technicians have won the previous four meetings.

In Division 2, Birmingham Brother Rice and Birmingham Groves will square off in an elimination game for the third straight year.

And across the state, Saugatuck will face Pewamo-Westphalia in a rematch of the 2017 Division 7 state championship game that the Pirates won 21-0. It also marks the fourth straight year and the fifth time in six year the two schools have met in the playoffs. Pewamo-Westphalia won all of those previous matchups.

Unlike the Saugatuck and Pewamo-Westphalia series, the Chippewa Valley and Dakota rivalry is a bit closer, with the two teams splitting their previous two playoff games in 2016 and ’17.

Dakota has won eight of 10 postseason games between the teams, according to the website michigan-football.com, and the Cougars lead the all-time series 19-11.

But the Big Reds have won the last three meetings, including a 24-17 triumph on Sept. 21. 

They also won the MAC Red Division championship, and they are 10-0 after defeating Utica Eisenhower 34-7 in the first round of the playoffs.

“Their running game is outstanding,” Baur said. “Andre Chenault is extremely hard to tackle. His center of gravity is very low.”

Chippewa Valley can do more than run. Quarterback Tommy Schuster directs an offense that averages 39.4 points per game.

Dakota’s offense also is clicking, averaging 35.6 points per game. Quarterback Mark Tocco and wide receiver Brandon Michalak are a threat in the passing game, and running back Dustin Solomon gave the Cougars a boost in their first-round playoff victory over Romeo.

“Getting him back was huge for us,” Baur said of Solomon, who missed the final four games of the regular season. “It really opens up our offense.”

Baur also has liked his defense’s improvement since the beginning of the season. 

Senior defensive tackle Riley Orlando delivered perhaps his best performance of the year against Romeo, Baur said, and linebacker Jeremiah Major leads the team with 120 tackles.

“He’s the glue of our defense,” Baur said. “He’s a tackling machine.”

Baur knows the rivalry between the two teams inside and out. He was the defensive coordinator at Chippewa Valley when the Big Reds won the Division 2 state championship in 2001.

“You don’t have to say much to our players or their players,” Baur said. “It’s a respectful rivalry.”

Division 2 rematch

Warren De La Salle, the defending Division 2 state champion, will take on Oak Park in another playoff rematch.

The Pilots edged Oak Park 14-7 last year, and they know they face a tough challenge in the Knights. 
Oak Park won the Oakland Activities Association White Division title. The Knights are 9-1 overall, and they defeated defending Division 1 state champion Clarkston in the final game of the regular season.

“They’re big, they’re fast, they’re well-coached,” De La Salle coach Mike Giannone said. “They’ve played a good schedule.”

So have the Pilots, who are 8-2 and won the Prep Bowl at Ford Field with a 24-6 victory over Detroit Catholic Central. They advanced in the playoffs by defeating Warren-Mott 26-10 in the first round.

“I like our defense, the way it’s flying around the football,” Giannone said. “They’re communicating well.”

Playoff rematches

Division 1

Macomb Dakota (8-2) at Chippewa Valley (10-0) 
Dearborn Fordson (9-1) at Detroit Cass Tech (10-0) 

Division 2

Warren De La Salle (8-2) at Oak Park (9-1)
Birmingham Brother Rice (7-3) 79.444 at Birmingham Groves (8-2)

Division 3

Zeeland West (8-2) at Zeeland East (9-1)

Division 4

Escanaba (8-2) at Alma (9-1)
Chelsea (7-3) 67.667 at Milan (8-2)

Division 5

Clare (9-1) at Reed City (10-0)
Lansing Catholic (9-1) at Portland (10-0) 
Frankenmuth (8-2) at Almont (10-0)
Ida (8-2) at Detroit Denby (8-2)

Division 6

Calumet (10-0) at Traverse City St Francis (10-0)
Michigan Center (9-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (9-0)
Blissfield (6-4) at Brooklyn Columbia Central (9-1) 

Division 7

McBain (8-2) at Lake City (10-0) 
Saugatuck (9-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (10-0)

Division 8

Ubly (8-2) at Harbor Beach (9-1)