4Frenzy’s seventh Game of the Week was a MAC-Red league matchup between the Dakota Cougars and the Eisenhower Eagles that took place at Dakota High School.
The MAC-Red is arguably one of the toughest leagues in the state which features highly competitive football programs such as Chippewa Valley, Romeo, Sterling Heights Stevenson, Anchor Bay, Dakota and Eisenhower. Both teams had a chance to win a share of the MAC-Red title with a victory in this game. If Dakota wins, they’ll win the title outright. If Eisenhower wins, they’ll share the title with Dakota and potentially Chippewa Valley if the Big Reds win their matchup against Romeo.
“Football has changed everywhere,” said Eisenhower Head Coach Christopher Smith. “There are great teams and coaches all over the state. The work these players have to put in just to be competitive is unreal. That preparation hopefully gives us a chance to compete with the best teams in the state.”
The visitors, Eisenhower entered this game with a 5-1 record. Eisenhower has been in several nail-biters this season with narrow victories coming against Romeo (35-29) in week 4, Sterling Heights Stevenson (15-11) in week 5, and a walk-off field goal win last week against Anchor Bay (22-19). Each league opponent has tested the team’s ability to win close games. Their only loss is to Chippewa Valley (33-7).
“Almost every game we have had this year has been close, so to be 5-1 tells me that this team finds ways to win,” said Smith.
Eisenhower has already improved their 1-8 record from last year and are back to being league title contenders. Coach Smith says that great leadership and team chemistry has been a key part of the team’s improvement.
“Eisenhower has only had 4 losing seasons in the history of the school,” said Smith. “Ike has always been known for tough and smart play. I played for some great coaches that have all influenced the way I coach - Bill Apisa (Clintondale), George Perles and Nick Saban (Michigan State). I also coached with Bob Lantzy (Eisenhower) for 15 years. I try to take what I like from each of them and pass it on to the players.”
“Our leaders have been outstanding this year,” said Smith. “This is high school football; we have a closed school, so we coach and play with the players that grew up with each other. This really makes a close bond between our players and allows them to play as a team.”
When asked about game plan adjustments for this matchup, Smith says that both teams know each other well and that no changes in preparation are necessary.
“When you play against a team 1-2 times a year, you pretty much know what each other is trying to do. Our preparation and game planning will not change,” Smith said.
The Eagles returned 10 starters on defense this year and will look to rely on the experience of their defense. Defensive end Luke Aniel, defensive tackle Christian Johnson, linebackers Cody Raymond, Dominic Ferraro and Ryan Polisei will work in trenches with three-year starter Benett Cardamone covering the back end at safety. The offense is led by three-year starting quarterback Preston Crum. He is behind an experienced offensive line led by Ty Soubliere and Owen Finlay.
The home team, Dakota entered this game with a 6-0 record. Dakota is currently ranked in the top 5 teams in the state by the Associated Press. The Cougars clinched a share of the MAC-Red title with a win over Romeo last week. Dakota football is no stranger to winning and are expected to make a deep run every year because of the 21 straight playoff appearances and two state championships on their resume.
Dakota is going through one of the toughest stretches in their schedule and has made it through unscathed by beating some of the best teams in the state. The Cougars defeated Brother Rice 21-7 in week 1 and their rivals, Chippewa Valley, in a 28-17 comeback victory in week 5. The 21-14 victory against Romeo last week was also a good test and Eisenhower will be another good one. The Cougars aim to begin their homecoming weekend with a victory over an improved Eisenhower team.
A major part of Dakota’s success this season has been on the defensive side of the ball. The Cougars have a strong and experienced defensive front that puts a great amount of pressure on the quarterback. Linebacker Calvin Watson, defensive end Anthony Coleman and linebacker Tyler Harper lead the defense that has allowed only 8 points per game so far.
The offense is led by senior quarterback Ethan Hamby and his favorite target, wide receiver Owen Colpaert, who stands 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, and has great playmaking ability. They are behind an offensive line led by two-year starter Joe Pruchnic. The offensive front does a good job of protecting Hamby and opens run lanes for senior running back Joe Cacevic.
This game was a battle between two of the MAC-Red’s best for the title. Both teams are strong in the trenches and winning on the offensive and defensive fronts will help either team control the pace of the game and allow their athletic skill players to make plays.
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