Prep Insider: Utica Eisenhower eyeing MAC Red title

David Goricki
The Detroit News

The high school football season reaches Week 8 this week and teams will be looking to clinch league titles, position themselves to get into championship games, actually compete in league playoffs or prepare for state playoff runs.

Utica Eisenhower (7-0, 4-0) has the opportunity to become the outright MAC Red champion with a win Friday at home against Warren Mott (6-1, 3-1), ending Macomb Dakota’s run of four consecutive division titles.

Mott, which suffered its first loss Friday to defending Division 1 state champion Romeo (31-8), could create a three-way tie for the Red Division title by upsetting unbeaten Eisenhower, along with a win by Romeo (5-2, 3-1) over Dakota (4-3, 1-3).

And, Dakota is in jeopardy of missing the state playoffs for the first time since 2000.

“I think to win the MAC Red is definitely huge. It’s a tough thing to win and when you win it, then you know you have a good team,” Eisenhower coach Chris Smith said. “That’s always our No. 1 goal, win the MAC Red, and if you do that, the rest of the stuff takes care of itself in terms of playoffs.

“I’m excited and our kids have worked hard, they have played great and we’re all excited to be able to compete in that game. It’s going to be at home, too, and we have great fans, we have 800 or 900 students in our student section and they’re pretty crazy. We’re going to go out there and have a lot of fun.”

Smith praised junior quarterback Max Wittwer for leading an offense that averages 39 points, more than 17 points more a game than a year ago, when Eisenhower finished 7-4 and advanced to the Division 1 district title game, falling to Dakota.

Eisenhower last won the Red title five years ago. That year it advanced to the Division 1 state semifinals before losing to Detroit Cass Tech, 6-3.

Eisenhower has outscored its opponents this season by a 273-53 margin, defeating Dakota, 26-13, in Week 2. It has scored 70 and 42 points the last two weeks.

“(Wittwer is) playing at a high level right now, smart, he’s making the right throws, making the right reads in our option,” Smith said. “He’s really been everything for our offense. I think last year our offense scored 220 points for the entire season when he was a sophomore and we’re close to 300 now. We’re moving the ball and we’re not turning the ball over a lot.

“The big thing about Max is he’s a great leader. He works harder than anybody on the team and he doesn’t shy away from getting into the drills. He wants to be first in the sprints. He’s just a tremendous leader. If a kid makes a bad play, he’s the first one over there, telling the kid to re-set and go on to the next play.”

Wittwer, who is getting interest from Big Ten and Mid-American Conference schools, has multiple weapons to work with, including receiver Ryan Chargo and running back Jack Provencher.

“Jack Provencher had 160 yards (in 42-13 win over Sterling Heights Stevenson Friday) and he had 150 yards and five touchdowns last week in the first half (70-6 win over L’Anse Creuse North),” said Smith. “He’s a big kid, 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds. He’s a sprinter in track, he’s one of our fastest kids. He runs hard, he runs tough and he’s tough to bring down. He’s been outstanding for us and our offensive line averages 6-2, 260 and we have no big, fat guys. We have all guys who can run and are in great shape.”

Smith knows the improved play of his defense is a major reason for Eisenhower’s success.

“I think last year we gave up almost the most points in school history (220) and we’ve given up just 53 this year,” Smith said. “We’ve only given up three points in the first half all year.”

Country Day tests

Detroit Country Day will definitely be prepared for the state playoffs with upcoming games against U-D Jesuit (5-1) and Temperance Bedford (6-1).

Country Day will play host to U-D Jesuit Saturday afternoon after a long, successful road trip, a 32-0 win at Marquette Friday.

Country Day took the seven-hour trip to the Upper Peninsula, staying at St. Ignace Thursday night, then leaving for home Saturday morning.

It is one of the premier teams in Division 4, along with River Rouge and Benton Harbor, dominating teams so far as an independent. It has limited opponents to 35 points all season while averaging 42.

Country Day has made long state playoff runs in past years, last winning the Division 5 state title in 1999, then losing in the Division 4 title game in 2007, ’08 and ’12 and advancing to the Division 4 semifinals the last two years.

“We have a good senior-led team and, to be honest, our schedule hasn’t been terrifically challenging, but the kids have done a good job and we have some big challenges coming up with U-D this week and Bedford the following week,” said longtime coach Dan MacLean. “It’s a good experienced group and you can see some things happening. They are starting to play more together.”

MacLean knows 6-1, 215-pound junior linebacker Kolin Demens and senior safety Chris Bergin will have to slow down Scotty Nelson and Elijah Collins to be successful against U-D.

Bedford has suffered just one loss, 26-24 to Saline.

Demens has offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Maryland, and Bergin, from Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Columbia, Colgate and Holy Cross. Steve Mann, who is in his third year of running Country Day’s offense, will play baseball at Duke.

Canton, Northville on collision course

Canton has won five straight since consecutive losses to Dearborn Fordson and Walled Lake Western to start the season.

It can clinch the Kensington Lakes Activities Association South with a win over Westland John Glenn, while Northville can clinch the Central Division with a win over Novi Friday. Novi (4-3) is in danger of missing the state playoffs after a loss Friday to Salem.

Walled Lake Western will play Brighton in the KLAA North-West title game Oct. 21 if Brighton can get past Howell Friday.

This will be the final year of the KLAA with multiple teams announcing their departure after this season.

Canton’s running game is working at a high level, piling up 428 yards on the ground Friday in a 56-0 rout of Wayne with senior Markus Sanders running for 147 yards and three TDs.