Prep notebook: Tocco, Macomb Dakota off to 4-0 start going into showdown vs. Chippewa Valley

By David Goricki
The Detroit News
Macomb Dakota head coach Greg Baur and quarterback Mark Tocco.

Macomb Dakota is averaging 45 points per game in its 4-0 start to earn the No. 12 ranking in The Detroit News State Super 20 rankings.

Dakota will be facing its biggest game of the season when it hosts No. 3 Chippewa Valley, also 4-0, Friday night in a MAC Red Division showdown.

Dakota third-year head coach Greg Baur knows the importance of having a veteran quarterback and is proud of how senior Mark Tocco has performed, throwing for 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns while also rushing for 181 yards and two TDs.

“Mark Tocco is having an outstanding season, directing our offense really well, and hasn’t had an interception or turnover this season,” said Baur of the signal-caller who has yet to have a Division I or II offer. “We’re a spread offense, but we can be very multiple, can try to take whatever the defense gives us.

“Mark throws the deep ball really well, but just directs our offense, is a two-year starter, doesn’t make any mistakes, makes great decisions and takes care of the ball, so he’s just perfect for what we’re doing.

“Really, we have a three-headed monster in Mark, Brandon Michalak and Dustin Solomon."

Michalak had six receptions for 240 yards last week in 49-27 win against Anchor Bay, and Solomon has rushed for 200 yards in consecutive weeks and has eight touchdowns already.

"Our offensive line is playing really well right now,” Baur added.

More:Detroit News prep football rankings: Week 5

While the majority of the Red Division coaches were picking Chippewa Valley to win the division this season, Baur picked Dakota, meaning this week's showdown is a put-up or shut-up game for his team.

“It’s a great rivalry,” Baur said. “They are very, very good and I think we’re really good, so it’s going to be one of those really great high school football games. For us it’s always our biggest game because they are our sister school." 

Chippewa Valley owns a 4-3 lead in the rivalry in the past four years, winning both games last season, including a 45-20 victory in a Division 1 district championship game.

Michalak has 621 receiving yards and six TDs and Solomon has 692 all-purpose yards.

Tocco, who took a visit to Northwood University Saturday for its game against Ferris State, feels confident heading into Friday's rivalry game.

“We’re 4-0 heading into Chip week, which is the biggest game of the year,” Tocco said. “It’s been a great year. We’re all family, we’re all brothers and it’s just been amazing. Our offense is really clicking and I have to hand that to my offensive linemen, who have done such a great job.”

Tocco says he has been able to use his versatility to exploit defensive coverages.

"I can run the ball, but at the same time I can take a shot deep," he said. "When the defense creeps up when I’m trying to run the ball, I can toss it over their heads, so that’s been an advantage for me all season.

“Dustin Solomon has been great on both sides of the ball and then my No. 1 receiver Brandon (Michalak) has a ton of receiving yards and I love throwing to him. Brandon has great speed and we’ve been going deep to him every game.”

Chippewa Valley has allowed only 30 points during its last three games and showcases one of the premier quarterbacks in Macomb County in senior Tommy Schuster, who has helped his team average 40 points, including 42 or more during that three-game stretch.

W.L. Western charging

Walled Lake Western showed in its dominating 52-13 rout at previously No. 19-ranked Waterford Mott Friday that it could be a threat to reach Ford Field to compete for the Division 2 state championship.

Western (3-1, 3-0 Lakes Valley) — ranked No. 17 — dominated in all three phases of the game and showed it has a three-headed monster of its own in Boston College-bound quarterback Sam Johnson, three-star junior receiver/cornerback Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen and running back/cornerback Calvin Brown.

Yaseen, who has 18 offers, including Big Ten ones from Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers, had five receptions for 124 yards and a TD in the win over Mott while also intercepting a pair of passes during the third quarter, each leading to TDs.

Johnson completed 9-of-14 for 180 yards and a TD without turning over the ball and Brown had the game of his life, scoring five TDs, including a 100-yard interception return for a 17-0 cushion and a 50-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter.

“It all starts with our O-line and if they’re doing their job then everything is rolling,” Johnson said. “Our O-line was moving people out of the way to create running lanes for our running backs and they had a good pocket for me every time I threw the ball.

“That pick by C.J. (Brown) was crazy, but he ran the ball well too. He can do a lot of things for us. We — me, Abdur and other receivers — throw weekends, also stay after practice and work on our game and it showed off today on the field.”

Western has tossed its 28-7 opening-game loss to Detroit Catholic Central aside, outscoring its Lakes Valley Conference opponents by a 130-20 margin.

So, can Western make a deep run in the postseason?

“I believe in us,” Johnson said. “I’m really confident in our team.”

Country Day rebounding

Coach Dan MacLean had a rare sub-.500 season at Detroit Country Day last season, which ended a run of 11 consecutive state playoff appearances, including Division 4 state title game losses in 2007, ’08, '12 and ’16.

MacLean has his smallest team — 25 players — in his 21 years as head coach, but Country Day is enjoying its payback season, avenging last year’s losses to Flushing and Detroit Loyola with victories this season, including 14-9 over Flushing in Week 3 and 28-12 over Loyola this past weekend.

No one is saying this year’s Country Day team can win the state title like it did for MacLean back in 1999 (Division 5), but this team can reach the postseason again, which is a step in the right direction.

MacLean has been getting outstanding contributions from numerous players, including senior captain and receiver/cornerback Darren King, captain and running back/linebacker Josh Winowich, captain and linebacker/safety Anthony Toma, linebacker Chris Rea, sophomore defensive lineman William Leggon and junior quarterback Ahlon Mitchell.

“It’s huge to get that win over Flushing, then win a physical game against Loyola, and I think the bigger part is to have our kids play in competitive games because none of these games that we’ve played all year have been blowouts," MacLean said.

“All of our games this season have been battles and I think if you stay healthy those are the kind of games you want to play, where your kids get a sense of how hard you have to play to be successful. Our kids are competing hard and that goes a long way in football.”

Country Day (3-1) will be playing at Ferndale (2-2) Friday, trying to avenge yet another loss after Ferndale won last season, 17-7.

Belleville takes dip

Belleville slipped in The News’ Super 20 rankings from No. 1 to No. 8 despite pushing its record to 4-0 with a 26-21 win over Westland John Glenn Friday.

Belleville has been far from impressive in its wins, needing a last-second TD pass in the season-opening 40-35 win over Brighton, then needing a strong second half to turn a 24-21 halftime deficit into a 48-24 Week 2 win over Livonia Churchill.

Belleville dominated Dearborn in Week 3 (51-14), but then slipped by a John Glenn team that was 5-22 the previous three years.

Meanwhile, Detroit Cass Tech, Oak Park, Chippewa Valley, Muskegon, Detroit King, Clarkston and Muskegon Mona Shores all had impressive wins to climb ahead of Belleville.