Belleville coach Jermain Crowell knows he will have to be at the top of his game to match wits against Chippewa Valley coach Scott Merchant when their teams play in a Division 1 state semifinal Saturday afternoon at Troy Athens.
Crowell was defensive coordinator at Detroit Cass Tech four years ago when Cass Tech needed Mike Weber to have a career game (404 yards rushing) in a 48-35 regional final win over Chippewa Valley.
Crowell plans to be calling the defensive shots in the press box Saturday to get the best view on things so he can try to slow down Chippewa Valley three-year starting quarterback Tommy Schuster.
Schuster operates an explosive offense that has averaged 40.5 points and outscored its three postseason opponents by an average of 34 points, including a 42-7 regional final win over Dearborn Fordson.
“Their running backs run hard," Crowell said of Chippewa Valley. "They break a lot of tackles and that No. 8 kid (Indiana-bound David Ellis) is special, and we don’t know if Dre (Seldon) or Julian (Barnett) will play, so things will be interesting.”
David Ellis had 231 all-purpose yards against Fordson, including a 99-yard TD run to open up a 35-7 halftime lead.
Belleville junior cornerback Andre Seldon, a Michigan commit, has missed the last three games with a shin injury. Michigan State-bound cornerback/receiver Julian Barnett injured his ankle in Friday’s 13-10 comeback regional win over West Bloomfield.
Pick: Chippewa Valley by 4.
All semifinals Saturday at 1 p.m.
Warren De La Salle (10-2) vs. Birmingham Groves (10-2) at Hazel Park: While Belleville could be without a pair of standout players in its semifinal game, De La Salle is thrilled to be getting quarterback Nolan Schultz back after he was forced to the sidelines because of a shoulder injury during the second half of its 21-3 Division 2 regional final win over Port Huron Northern.
With Schultz out, De La Salle coach Mike Giannone went to senior Josh DeBerry, who rushed for more than 80 yards out of the wildcat formation, scoring on a 57-yard run on the opening series of the second half for a 14-3 lead.
“He’s good to go,” said Giannone of Schultz. “He's a dual-threat guy who knows the offense so it’s good to have him back. He’s a gamer, a difference-maker.”
Giannone is impressed with Groves, saying: “They are a good football team. They’re fast and well-coached. We can’t let them hit the home run. They like to do that so defensively we have to contain them and stop them from doing that, and offensively we have to possess the ball.”
Groves hit some home runs in its 53-29 regional final win over Livonia Franklin with Colby Taylor scoring on a 67-yard run and Damonte McCurdy contributing a 30-yard TD run.
Pick: De La Salle by 6.
Clarkston (10-2) vs. Saline (11-1) at Okemos: The teams met in the 2014 Division 1 state championship game as Clarkston earned a 33-25 win, with Saline quarterback Josh Jackson moving on to Virginia Tech and Clarkston lineman Cole Chewins to Michigan State.
Clarkston is in search of its fourth state title in six years, also coming away with the ultimate championship trophy in 2013 and last season, a 3-2 victory over OAA Red rival West Bloomfield.
The 2018 version of the Clarkston-Saline semifinal has its share of stars, as well, including Clarkston standout sophomore two-way lineman Rocco Spindler and Saline receiver/cornerback M.J. Griffin.
Look for Clarkston’s defense to be the difference in this one with Spindler & Co. putting pressure on Saline quarterback Andrew Arbaugh while Josh Luther gives receiver Brendan Murphy little room to operate.
Pick: Clarkston by 3.
Detroit King (10-2) vs. DeWitt (12-0) at Brighton: This is King’s fourth straight semifinal trip, winning Division 2 state championships in 2015 and ’16, then losing to De La Salle in last year’s semifinal, 14-13.
Now, King is playing in Division 3 and will face an unbeaten DeWitt team that took a 15-0 lead over Farmington in the first two minutes of its regional final win without scoring an offensive TD.
DeWitt scored on the opening kickoff, then opened up the 15-point cushion on 25-yard interception return by linebacker Jace Preston.
Preston and his teammates will be challenged by King’s balanced attack, led by Central Michigan-bound quarterback Dequan Finn and running back Peny Boone.
Pick: King by 8.