Clinton Township — In the frigid wake of the season’s first snowfall, piles of half-frozen white sludge lined the sidelines at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley.
And it was no coincidence — the home team had ice in its veins.
Chippewa Valley also had the best player on the field in its 42-7 Division 1 regional championship victory Friday night, as Indiana commit David Ellis froze the Dearborn Fordson defense on his way to 231 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
Ellis’ biggest plays of the evening were a 99-yard touchdown run and 80-yard TD reception off a screen pass.
Chippewa Valley head coach Scott Merchant said Ellis “is the best football player in the state of Michigan.”
“David’s a home-run threat every time he touches the ball,” Merchant added. “He does everything for us.
The regional championship is Chippewa Valley’s first since 2003. After losing in last year’s regional round to Cass Tech, the win held a lot of weight for its loaded senior class.
“I grew up with these guys. A lot of these guys have been my brother for a long time,” senior captain Courtney McGarity said. “To be able to come out and just win it so big this year, it means everything.”
Aside from the evasive talent of Ellis, Chippewa Valley (12-0) also leaned on stellar defense and running backs Andre Chenault and Ja’Von Kimpson to pull away from Fordson (10-2).
McGarity had two sacks and Chippewa Valley allowed just 192 yards of offense. It recovered two fumbles and Jayden Pennywell snagged an interception.
The defense quickly closed the gaps on James Wheeler and 1,000-yard rusher Abraham Jafaar, sustained constant pressure on Hussein Ajami and, most importantly, bested the Fordson offense in every critical moment of the game.
“The way our defensive coordinator has our defense set up, it’s designed to stop those lanes from rushing,” McGarity said, adding that Chippewa Valley’s physical brand of defense is “hard to defend against.”
“Not a lot of guys can run with us.”
In the first half’s final minutes, Chippewa Valley came up with stops in its own territory on consecutive possessions — huge moments, considering a high-flying offense was standing on the other sideline and would get the ball back to start the second half.
It stopped Fordson on fourth down, and then, Chippewa Valley lineman Michael Garwood recovered a fumble on the 1-yard-line to keep its three-score lead safe.
On the next play, Ellis put the game out of reach with his 99-yard touchdown run. He got to the edge and exploded down the sideline to make it 35-7 with 1:02 remaining in the second.
Ellis said that the holes his offensive line made for him “made the job easy."
“I already knew (he would score),” Ellis said. “I just had to keep running.
Ellis’ 99-yard touchdown represented Fordson’s biggest issues on the defensive side of the ball: an inability to defend the strong-side edge and susceptibility to the big play.
Kimpson scored two touchdown runs to the right side of the line; Chippewa Valley’s five first-half touchdown drives travelled a total of 336 yards in just 17 plays.
Tommy Schuster was 3-for-4 with 119 yards passing and ran for two 8-yard touchdowns. He called an audible on Ellis’ 80-yard touchdown reception to get his receiver the ball.
“They were leaving a safety over the top of [Ellis], they didn’t have anybody underneath on him,” Merchant said. “We had a run play, [Schuster] checked to that. Got him the ballin space.”
Up 28 points to start the second half, Chippewa Valley came out of the locker room even hungrier than before. Marcel Lewis (Michigan State) and McGarity sacked Fordson quarterback on the second- and fourth-down plays of the first drive.
Fordson also couldn’t get out of its own way. It lost 75 penalty yards in the third quarter.
Through three playoff games, undefeated Chippewa Valley is now outscoring opponents 127-24 — and it’s wasted no time doing so. In Friday’s win, Ellis and Kimpson put their team up 14-0 in just 5:28.
Chenault finished with 56 yards on seven carries and had 33 on three carries.
Wheeler scored Fordson’s only touchdown, a 31-yard run in the first quarter.
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer