Talented Chippewa Valley eager to get OK on fall football season

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Michigan High School Athletic Association director Mark Uyl is expected to make a decision on fall sports, including football, next week.

Chippewa Valley veteran coach Scott Merchant hopes Uyl will permit intrasquad 7-on-7s to take place immediately after announcing his decision – if football is still set to be played in its traditional season.

Scott Merchant

Coaches want to know how their rosters will play out before practice begins Aug. 10. Merchant has to decide who his starting quarterback will be, along with other key skill positions, especially with a season-opening showdown with Detroit Catholic Central on Aug. 27 in the Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State.

A spokesman from the Ohio High School Athletic Association told The Detroit News Tuesday that its member schools are currently allowed to have intrasquad scrimmages and intrasquad 7-on-7s. He said that some schools have had positive COVID-19 tests, but no deaths have occurred, and no team had said it would shut down.

Chippewa Valley has been as good as any program in the state over the last three years, with a 33-3 record and Division 1 state championship in 2018. One reason for the success is Merchant’s organizational skills; he likes to have his team in condition and with his depth chart in place as he heads into camp, then making additional moves as injuries take place.

More: Nation's No. 1 DT Damon Payne 'stronger, faster, leaner' as big announcement day nears

When asked how he thought his team would perform this season, Merchant told The Detroit News: “It’s hard to tell because we haven’t been able to do any football stuff. It’s tough when you’ve been away from your kids for three-plus months.

“We’ve had a lot of kids come to conditioning sessions, so I think we’ll be in shape, but we haven’t competed or done anything with a football. We have 10 starters (returning) so we have a nice core back. We also had a lot of injuries last year, so we had a lot of kids get experience, but they weren’t necessarily starters. I think we have a nice crew, it’s just hard to tell where kids are at physically since they haven’t been around.”

Merchant doesn’t see how football could be played in the spring, then start camp for the sport to be played again in the fall a month later.

“Football is not a sport that should be played six straight months,” Merchant said. “We already talk about injuries – head injuries, knee injuries, shoulder injuries – and things would be a lot worse if we played in spring, then came back and played again in the fall.

“I hope we can play this fall. Right now, I’ve been logging data, taking temperatures and sanitizing equipment and spraying sanitizer into kids’ hands. I think if we’re going to play this fall we need to have a couple of weeks to do 7-on-7 and some other intrasquad stuff prior to practice. I think I’m going to suggest that in our next Zoom meeting (with Uyl and other MHSAA officials).”

Merchant had an outstanding quarterback in Tommy Schuster, who led Chippewa Valley to the state title in 2018 and is expected to be the starter at FCS North Dakota this season. Last season, Josh Kulka play well and helped Chippewa Valley repeat as MAC Red champions while having an unbeaten regular season before a predistrict loss to rival Macomb Dakota.

Now, Merchant has to replace Kulka and 1,000-yard running back Myren Harris.

“We have two kids who will be battling it out for the quarterback spot – Jack Donovan, who was our backup last year, and Ryan Schuster, Tommy’s brother, who started as the JV quarterback,” Merchant said.

Merchant will also feature the Buffalo-bound Howze twins – Quillen Howze, a cornerback/receiver, and 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker/tight end Jaillen Howze.

Other players expected to play big roles for Chippewa Valley are three-year starting offensive lineman Alex Lanzon, running back Darryl Hawkins, safety Dravin Wilson, linebacker Isaiah French, and junior receivers Zack Ernat and Maddox Altamirano.