Farmington Hills Harrison hosts No. 14 Oak Park on Friday night in a battle for first place in the OAA White Division.
Harrison legendary coach John Herrington could match Al Fracassa as the state’s all-time winningest head coach (430) with a victory, but Herrington wants a win over Oak Park for a much bigger reason.
Harrison (4-2, 4-1) has suffered losses to No. 6 East Grand Rapids (33-8) in the season opener and to Birmingham Groves (32-31 overtime), which also is in the hunt (5-1, 4-1) for the OAA White title.
Oak Park (5-1, 5-0) lost its opener to No. 3 Utica Eisenhower (24-7), but has won five straight since, outscoring its opponents by a 220-14 margin with four shutouts in its winning streak.
“It’s going to be a big game for sure, and it would be nice to have a memorable win against Coach Carter, but the main thing is we have to get a win to get in the playoffs since we have to have six wins and we have Berkley (1-5) and then possibly West Bloomfield or Southfield A&T in the regular season finale,” said Herrington, noting his team finished 5-4 last season and missed the playoffs.
“It would be great to get a win and against a good coach and a good program like that would make it even better obviously, but we definitely have our backs against the wall.
“Oak Park’s offensive line is very good and they have three running backs that are all good and they have two quarterbacks, one (Dwan Mathis) who is going to Michigan State. Their defense is very fast and they have Robert Daniel (11 Division I offers) in the secondary who we think is outstanding, and obviously their size is something everybody has to be concerned about.
“I think you can’t run at them because they’re so big. It will be important for us to excel on special teams and make sure there’s no turnovers.”
Harrison hasn’t missed the state playoffs in consecutive years since 1978-79, a few years after Oak Park coach Greg Carter ended his pro baseball career in the Tigers minor-league organization, feeling he wasn’t about to beat out Lance Parrish as catcher.
Herrington has been impressed with the play of junior running back Rod Heard, who has rushed for nearly 900 yards.
The teams have split the last six games in the series, with Oak Park winning last year, 14-9.
Pick: Oak Park by 8.
Clarkston (5-1) at Rochester Adams (5-1), 7 p.m. Friday: This is a showdown for first place in the OAA Red Division with Adams coming up with an impressive 38-14 rout of Southfield A&T last week after suffering a tough 17-16 loss to West Bloomfield, which also owns a share of first place in the Red. Adams triple option attack has worked well and expect it to keep racking up big yardage against Clarkston. Pick: Adams by 6.
Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (5-1) at Macomb Dakota (5-1), 7 p.m. Friday: No, neither team will win the MAC Red. That honor will go to Utica Eisenhower for the second straight season. But this game is important for one of the teams to lock up a playoff spot while also improving its chances for a homefield advantage during the postseason. Both teams have outstanding quarterbacks, Tommy Schuster of Chippewa Valley and Mark Tocco of Dakota. The series has been competitive with the teams splitting the last four games, including a Chippewa Valley 40-38 win last season. Pick: Dakota by 2.
Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (6-0) at Dearborn Divine Child (5-1), 7 p.m. Friday: This is for first place in the Catholic League AA Division with Gabriel Richard off to its first 6-0 start since 2010 and Divine Child trying to bounce back from a 52-14 loss to No. 7 Warren De La Salle. Divine Child has come away with close win in the series the last three years, 20-16 in 2014, 28-23 in ’15 and 21-10 last year. Look for Divine Child to make it four straight behind the strong play of quarterback Theo Day. Pick: Divine Child by 9.