Utica Eisenhower has owned its Macomb Area Conference Red Division series with Clinton Township Chippewa Valley the past several years, a reason it entered the season as two-time division champions.
Eisenhower, which has won five straight in the series, including a 49-42 win a year ago, will enter Friday night’s home game as the underdog this time around.
Underdog? That doesn’t seem right for an Eisenhower team which is coming off a 67-0 rout of Warren Cousino last week.
Still, No. 13 Eisenhower (1-1) will be the underdog when it goes up against No. 4 Chippewa Valley (2-0), which showcases a powerful offense, led by three-year starting quarterback Tommy Schuster, Central Michigan-bound receiver/cornerback David Ellis and a trio of talented running backs in Ja’Von Kimpson (Miami, Ohio), Andre Chenault and junior Myren Harris.
And don’t forget Michigan State-bound linebacker Marcel Lewis, who caught a TD pass from his tight end spot in the season-opening 31-26 win at Saline.
Chippewa Valley is averaging 36.5 points.
“I don’t really look at streaks because each year teams lose half their seniors and present a whole new challenge,” Eisenhower coach Chris Smith said. “We take one game at a time, prepare our players to compete and let them do the rest.
“Our defense played solid last week, but our defense will definitely be tested again this week. They have a lot of weapons and ways they can attack defenses so it will be a great challenge playing them.”
Eisenhower first-year starting quarterback Blake Rastigue missed on several deep ball throws in a season-opening 31-13 loss to Oak Park, but hit on all three deep passes he threw against Cousino.
Pick: Chippewa Valley by 6
No. 12 Farmington Hills Harrison (2-0) at No. 3 Oak Park (2-0), 6 Friday
This has been one of the best rivalries since Greg Carter came on board to lead Oak Park’s program.
Harrison legendary head coach John Herrington owns a 4-3 record against Carter, who took over at Oak Park in 2011, including a 17-14 victory last season and a 60-52 shootout win five years ago.
This is Harrison’s final season with the school closing its doors for good following the 2018-19 school year.
“We have the utmost respect for Coach Herrington and his program and we know that the state championships that he’s won (13) and participated in (18), and that makes us play at a high level because we know if we don’t play at a high level we won’t be able to compete with them,” Carter said.
Oak Park is loaded with talent, including Ohio State-bound quarterback Dwan Mathis and five-star junior guard Justin Rogers, who also is playing defensive end and linebacker this season.
“Here’s the thing that Oak Park’s doing which is really, really tough and the coach is doing a good job where’s he’s playing him at defensive end, at linebacker and he could play tackle so you don’t know where’s he going to be on defense,” Herrington said of Rogers. “He’s a great player, no question about it. We were at both of their games and I had no idea he’d be playing linebacker, a 300-pound linebacker, that’s pretty tough to isolate and go out and try to block him, and he can run. He’s got a great future ahead of him, you’re talking NFL for sure.”
Oak Park will be playing without talented 6-foot-6 junior receiver Maliq Carr, who was ejected from last week’s game with Birmingham Groves, leading to an automatic one-game suspension.
Pick: Oak Park by 3
Saline (1-1) at Ypsilanti Lincoln (2-0), 7 Friday
This is the first time the teams have met since 2011, a Saline 41-7 win. Yet, Saline owns a 22-game winning streak in the series with Lincoln’s last win coming in 1987.
This one should be much more competitive with Lincoln enjoying its best season a year ago — 9-3, Division 2 regional final loss to Detroit King — and opening this season with a 2-0 start, outscoring opponents by a 98-15 margin.
Pick: Lincoln by 2
Canton (1-1) at Plymouth (2-0), 7 Friday
This is a new day in the rivalry with longtime head coaches Tim Baechler (Canton, 20 years) and Mike Sawchuk (Plymouth, 12 years) either retired or moving on to another state to coach.
Brian Lewis, who guided Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard to a 7-3 record last season, has gotten Plymouth off to a 2-0 start. Canton is 1-1 in Andrew Lafata’s first year as head coach, defeating Northville, 39-0, last Friday behind a 299-yard rushing performance by Steven Walker. It was Canton’s first shutout since 2010.
Canton has four of the last five games in the series, including two straight.
Pick: Plymouth by 4