Clinton Township — Macomb Dakota needed a Week 9 win to punch its ticket to the state playoffs.
On Friday night, Dakota made the most of its opportunity, pulling off a shocking 34-13 upset of MAC Red rival and defending Division 1 state champion Chippewa Valley.
Chippewa Valley — which entered the game ranked No. 3 in The Detroit News Super 20 with a 23-game winning streak — has defeated Dakota five straight times, including 27-21 in Week 5.
But Dakota dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in the rematch, converted on several fourth downs out of the wildcat with sophomore Caiden Sloan (19 carries, 92 yards, 3 touchdowns) and kept the ball away from Chippewa Valley’s explosive offense, which averaged 35 points.
Dakota (6-4) played a near perfect game, dominating the first 1½ quarters to set the tempo, scoring on its first three possessions to take a 20-6 lead.
“We were going to be aggressive and go for it on fourth down if it was close," Dakota coach Greg Bauer said. "I really love our offensive line and we have three very good running backs so that formation puts them all on the field at the same time which is kind of our strength.”
Dakota used an 8 minute, 33 second drive to start the game, converting a fourth-and-inches play at its 40, then having Zach Droski find Gabe Mata on a third-and-8 play for 8 yards to the 4 to set up Sloan’s 2-yard touchdown run out of the wildcat for a 6-0 cushion.
Then, after Dakota forced Chippewa Valley to a three-and-out, Dakota got a short field to work with at its own 47 and Droski found Mata for a 34-yard touchdown pass and a 13-0 cushion just eight seconds into the second quarter.
Chippewa Valley quarterback Josh Kulka got his team back in the game when he found Myles Harris for a 54-yard touchdown pass 10 seconds later to cut the deficit to 13-6.
Love returned the kickoff 41 yards to the Dakota 45, then grabbed Droski’s pass on a third-and-12 for 19 yards to the Chippewa Valley 27.
Dakota converted yet another fourth-and-1 play when Sloan, out of the wildcat, picked up five yards to the 14, then scored on the next play out of the same formation for a 20-6 lead.
Again, Kulka made sure Chippewa Valley got within striking distance at halftime, directing a 68-yard, 11-play drive as Myren Harris scored on a a 22-yard run.
Kulka’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Corey Anderson with 24.5 seconds left in the half, pulled Chippewa Valley to within 20-13.
“After I kind of messed up a little bit (on Chippewa Valley’s long TD pass), I always go back to my teammates and tell them it’s never going to happen again," said Dakota senior defensive back Matt Love, "and they always have my back, so I can play with a little more confidence and just go back out there and ball.
“It was a really big win for us, especially after losing a real close one to them during the regular season. We knew we had to come out there and get off to a good start and just go from there.”
Droski led Dakota on a 54-yard drive on its first drive of the second half, after forcing a punt and getting great field position. Junior running back De’Javion Stepney scored on a 27-yard run to open up a 27-13 lead.
“Obviously I’m disappointed at the result, but I’m not disappointed at these kids at all," Chippewa Valley coach Scott Merchant said. "Nobody picked us to do much this year, somebody didn’t even pick us to win our own conference, so to go 9-and-0 after going 14-and-0, it doesn’t happen very often.”