Max Wittwer is playing the part of the top dual-threat quarterback in the state heading into Week No. 3 of his senior season at Utica Eisenhower.
Wittwer was The News’ All-East first-team quarterback last season after throwing for 1,677 yards and 21 touchdowns while rushing for 819 yards to help Eisenhower win the MAC Red title and advance to the Division 1 state semifinals, falling in the final seconds to eventual champion Detroit Cass Tech, 32-28, on a 20-yard TD reception by Donovan Peoples-Jones who now plays for Michigan.
Well, it’s obvious by his play that Wittwer wants to lead Eisenhower deep into the playoffs again this year, possibly ending his career with the state title on the line at Ford Field during Thanksgiving weekend.
Wittwer was at his best last Friday night, going 8-of-10 passes for 189 yards and four TDs while rushing for 131 yards on six carries in a 42-16 rout of MAC rival Macomb Dakota.
Oh, and Wittwer has multiple weapons to work with, including senior receiver Jack Morris who had three TD receptions and running back Caleb Oyster who caught a TD pass and ran for 119 yards (10 carries) and 2 TDs.
Wittwer directed a 98-yard drive, finding Ian Kennelly with a 61-yard TD pass to give Eisenhower a 24-7 win over Oak Park — ranked No. 10 in The News preseason poll — in the season-opener, also rushing for a 16-yard TD. No. 4 Eisenhower will play host to Roseville Friday.
“He’s unbelievable,” Eisenhower coach Chris Smith said of Wittwer. “He’s so quick with his process. A guy like him comes around once in a lifetime.
“We have a kid like Max who can throw and run, we have a back (Oyster) who can run and we have a pretty good offensive line right now too.”
And then there’s Morris.
“Jack works hard every day, is one of the smartest football players I’ve ever met,” Wittwer said of Morris. “He’s a great receiver, has great hands and I’m thankful I have him as my receiver.”
Yes, Wittwer rarely takes any credit despite putting the ball right on stride most of the time for his receivers, especially to Morris against Dakota.
“Our coaches know how to make the right call and see where the holes in the defenses are,” Wittwer said. “We love executing it, but they should get the credit. The scout team really prepares us for game time.”
So, where has Wittwer improved the most since he now is a three-year starter?
“The game has definitely come to me a lot slower and that comes with experience and reps, but that’s my biggest area of improvement,” Wittwer said. “I’m just enjoying the ride. It’s my last year and I’m playing with some of my best friends. I just want to stay calm, stay poised and bring it every week.”
Wittwer didn’t know how good Eisenhower would be following the graduation loss of all but one starter on the offensive line, along with running back Jack Provencher who rushed for a school-record 1,579 yards and 25 touchdowns.
“Before the season started I was a little iffy on what was going to happen, then we started doing some team stuff, some 7-on-7s and we looked pretty good,” Wittwer said. “Then, we started the season and it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re probably just as good, if not better than last year,’ and that team was great. We just want that type of bond to carry over.
“We had one starter back from the offensive line, but he’s the man, (6-3, 290-pound) Derian Doherty who is a three-year starter who hits hard, works hard and has a big body who is also the son of a former great lineman at Michigan (Rob Doherty, 1992 Big Ten champion team that won Rose Bowl). The other guys on the line are really coming around, definitely faster than I thought they would.”
Wittwer has an offer from Western Kentucky and another one from Eastern Kentucky, but won’t make a decision until after the season.
“They offered over the summer,” said Wittwer of Western Kentucky. “I don’t like to focus on that stuff right now. I’ll make my decision after the season.”
And Wittwer is just as confident off the field, saying his grade-point-average is “3.83 and it’s still rising.”