Prep picks: Big stakes, big crowd for Chippewa Valley vs. Dakota clash

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Scott Merchant

Macomb Dakota will be the place to be Friday night when the Cougars host Clinton Township Chippewa Valley at 7 p.m. in a showdown between two of the top teams in the state.

Chippewa Valley – ranked No. 3 in the state by The Detroit News – and No. 12 Dakota are both unbeaten at 4-0, including 2-0 in the MAC Red.

Dakota is averaging 45 points a game, Chippewa Valley 40.

Chippewa Valley has played the better competition, defeating Saline 31-26 on the road in the opener, then two-time MAC Red champion Utica Eisenhower 45-24 in Week 3.

More: Detroit News prep football picks: Week 5

Dakota senior quarterback Mark Tocco has thrown for 1,023 yards and 11 TDs without an interception. He will be facing his biggest challenge, going up against Michigan State-bound linebacker Marcel Lewis and an outstanding secondary that includes safety David Ellis (Central Michigan) and cornerback Ja’Von Kimpson (Miami of Ohio).

“They were really good last year too, putting up tons of numbers, have a good scheme, have good players and are well-coached,” said Chippewa Valley coach Scott Merchant. “We were 5-1 and they were 5-1 last year when we played, so it’s a similar scenario except we’re both undefeated this time.”

Chippewa Valley swept the series last year, including a 45-20 district title win, avenging a 48-27 loss to Dakota in the district semifinal the previous year.

“It’s always a huge game when you’re two miles apart, when you’re in the same district, when your kids have grown up playing against each other or with each other,” Merchant said. “A lot of the old coaches from Chippewa Valley are over at Dakota now. Coach (Dakota head coach Greg) Baur was an assistant at Chippewa when they won the state title in 2001. And, we’re two of the bigger schools in the state so I would imagine there will be six, seven thousand people at the game so it will be a great atmosphere.”

While Dakota has an experienced quarterback in Tocco, Merchant has a three-year starter in Tommy Schuster, who has nine TDs without an interception while playing just two full games.

“We have some high-quality skilled kids,” said Merchant. “David Ellis does a great job on both sides of the ball and will have to have a big game at safety. Obviously, Marcel is an outstanding linebacker, but Ja’Von Kimpson has been having an outstanding season and we’ve got him playing corner and he’s just super physical this year and has caused multiple fumbles.”

Pick: Chippewa Valley by 6

Canton (3-1) at Brighton (3-1), Friday, 7 p.m.

This is a battle for first place in the KLAA West Division with the teams coming in with 3-0 division records.

Brighton has outscored its division rivals by a 90-7 margin, including a pair of shutouts.

Now, Brighton will have to try to find a way to slow down Steven Walker, who has rushed for 831 yards (69 carries) while helping Canton average 43 points in division play out of its Wing-T attack.

“Brighton’s been very effective, very well coached and their quarterback is probably going to be one of the best we’re going to see all year," said Canton first-year head coach Andy Lafata. "He’s a special player.”

Brighton senior dual-threat quarterback Will Jontz has helped his team average 31 points, running for 148 yards and a TD in last week’s 24-7 win over Plymouth.

Pick: Brighton by 2

Allen Park (3-1) at Woodhaven (4-0), Friday, 7 p.m.

Woodhaven has been winning with defense, limiting opponents to a combined total of 26 points the last three weeks.

Now, Woodhaven will have to slow down Allen Park quarterback Nick Arnoldy to remain unbeaten and atop the Downriver League standings.

Pick: Woodhaven by 8

Livonia Churchill (2-2) at Livonia Franklin (3-1), Friday, 7 p.m.

Franklin has won three straight since suffering a season-opening 28-14 upset loss to Northville, earning a share of the top spot in the KLAA East with a 3-0 division record.

Franklin has defeated Churchill three of the last four times the teams have played in the crosstown rivalry, including 21-19 in last year’s Division 2 district final, en route to advancing to the state championship game.

Franklin has given up just 13 points in its last two games – a 44-6 rout of Wayne Memorial and a 49-7 win over Livonia Stevenson – and will try to stop Churchill quarterback Drew Alsobrooks from having a big game.

Pick: Franklin by 8