It was next man up for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley in its season opener last Thursday night at Saline.
With running backs Ja’Von Kimpson and Andre Chenault hampered by cramps in the first half, 10th year Chippewa Valley head coach Scott Merchant turned to junior Myren Harris in the third quarter with Saline holding a 19-14 lead.
Harris took advantage of his opportunity, rushing for 103 yards on 17 carries in leading Chippewa Valley — ranked No. 5 in The News Super 20 poll — to the 31-26 comeback win.
Chippewa Valley trailed 13-0 and 19-7, but Merchant knew he had a three-year starter at quarterback in Tommy Schuster, as well as some depth at running back.
Harris was the catalyst in Chippewa Valley scoring 17 uninterrupted points to turn the 19-14 deficit into a 31-19 lead, making long runs on TD drives of 73 and 93 yards.
First, Harris broke loose for 41 yards, setting up Schuster’s 35-yard TD pass to Michigan State-bound Marcel Lewis to give Chippewa its first lead at 24-19 with 6:21 left in the third quarter.
Then, Harris gave Chippewa Valley some breathing room after it started its series from its own 7 on its next drive, getting loose for 29 yards to the 36. Kimpson returned for a 34-yard run, setting up his own 2-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 31-19 lead.
“Myren Harris, this was his first varsity football game and I thought he really stepped up and did a really nice job, especially considering when you lose Andre Chenault and Ja’Von Kimpson, that’s 1,600 yards of offense right there,” Merchant said. “They were both just cramping. Neither of them played at all in the second half, maybe Ja’Von did for a bit so Myren took us on his back there.
“There’s going to be a lot of pickle juice, a lot of mustard and a lot of running in practice this week, I can tell you that right now. For us, this was an ugly win, but when you’re down 13-0 and you come back and score 31 points against a good football team, we’ll take it. This is going to hammer home some points, that we have to come ready to play.”
Harris, the starting quarterback on the JV team last year, was thrilled to get on the field against a strong Saline program which was 60-10 the previous six seasons.
“Coach always talks about when the key players get hurt it’s the next man up so I had to do my job and step up and do what I had to do for the team,” said the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Harris. “It feels good. It can’t get any better than that because we got the win tonight.
“Coach always talks about down and distance and you have to always be aware of the time and stuff so all we had to do was keep pounding, pounding, pounding and I knew my job was to dip my shoulder and get past that line and get the first down.”
Chippewa Valley had a balanced attack with Schuster completing 15-of-24 for 168 yards and two TDs, and Harris & Co. rushing for 222 yards on 38 carries while racking up 21 first downs, including two during the final three minutes after Saline pulled with 31-26.
State title game rematch
West Bloomfield dominated Clarkston (37-16) during a regular season game last year before the OAA Red rivals played again at Ford Field in the Division 1 championship game, with Clarkston gaining revenge with a 3-2 win.
West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy — a former Michigan receiver — went back to The Big House Friday night to watch Clarkston defeat Grandville, 12-9, after guiding West Bloomfield to a 39-28 victory over Birmingham Groves the previous night.
Clarkston has a strong defense — led by four-star sophomore two-way linemen Rocco Spindler and Garrett Dellinger — and will be ready for West Bloomfield when the teams meet at 7 p.m. Friday at Clarkston.
“It’s a big rival game and you couldn’t ask for anything better,” Spindler said. “We want another shot at them and I know they want another shot at us so it’s going to be a great game.
“I started both ways as a freshman, but this time me and (Dellinger) are playing 48 minutes non-stop. I think a lot of teams are going to have a tough time running against us. I think our defense is one of the best in the state.”
Clarkston graduated 40 seniors from last year’s championship team and returns just three starters on both sides of the ball, a reason Clarkston’s 32nd year head coach Kurt Richardson is relying even more heavily on his sophomores.
West Bloomfield graduated 31 seniors, but has a lot of talent back, including Michigan State-bound receiver Tre Mosley and Penn State-bound linebacker Lance Dixon.
West Bloomfield also has a talented sophomore in running back Donovan Edwards, who has offers from Michigan, Missouri, Purdue and Kentucky. Spindler and Dellinger have offers from Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State.
Clarkston’s defense has Bellamy’s attention.
“As a coach the hardest part is to make sure the kids focus on one game at a time and that was what we did against Groves,” Bellamy said. “The one thing about the OAA is it’s one of the top leagues in the state and for us, when your first two games is Groves and then the defending state champs you have to make sure the guys are ready, strong and in condition because it’s going to be power football and we’ll have our hands full against Clarkston.”
Detroit King showed why it was ranked No. 2 in The News Super 20, scoring 33 straight points in a stretch of 13 minutes Saturday night at Adams Field to turn an 18-13 deficit into a 46-18 lead in a eventual 52-38 win over East St. Louis, which was ranked No. 2 in Class 7A in the Illinois Associated Press poll.
Third-year King coach Ty Spencer said heading into the season that CMU-bound quarterback Dequan Finn “is really on another level right now which is scary,” and Finn backed that statement up with an MVP-performance.
Finn accounted for 439 yards of total offense, rushing for 283 yards on 16 carries and 3 TDs while completing 9-of-21 for 156 yards and three TDs.
Trailing 18-13, Finn found senior receiver Dominick Polidore-Hannah for an 8-yard TD pass with 1:24 left in the half, and Finn again connected with Polidore-Hannah for a 17-yard TD strike with three seconds left to give King a 26-18 cushion.
Then, on the first play of the second half Finn used his speed for an 80-yard TD run, followed by his 63-yard TD run midway through the third to open a 38-18 cushion.
While all the preseason talk was on King’s receivers — four-star junior Rashawn Williams and three-star junior Lemuel Watley — it was Polidore-Hannah who scored on an 80-yard kickoff return to complete the scoring for King.
“He played defensive back for us last year and we kind of forced him to be a DB and the offensive side is where he should have been at,” third-year King coach Tyrone Spencer. “He had a great offseason so I wasn’t surprised with him at all.”