Friday's prep football: Chippewa Valley overtakes Utica Eisenhower in playoff opener

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News

Clinton Twp. — With the third quarter winding down in Clinton Township Chippewa Valley’s first-round playoff matchup against Utica Eisenhower on Friday night, there was but one way for head coach Scott Merchant to describe what he’d seen from his team.

“It didn’t look good,” Merchant said.

Chippewa Valley's Cephus Harris (7) escapes attempted tackles and runs the ball in the first half.

But Chippewa Valley came alive and battled back from a 14-0 deficit in the final 14 minutes as Darrel Hawkins took a 56-yard run to the house and Cephus Harris — who finished with 213 all-purpose yards — scored twice in the final 3:55 to squeak out a thrilling 21-14 win.

“Every single play in the first half, somebody made a mistake,” Merchant said.

“If you have 10 guys do it right and one guy do it wrong, that just doesn’t work. … We started cleaning things up, and then that gave our skill players, who are pretty talented, an opportunity to make a play.”

The big plays came from everywhere for Chippewa Valley (3-3). Hawkins ripped off his 56-yard run with 1:46 to go in the third, after an emphatic touchdown from Eisenhower (2-5) to go up two scores.

As Chippewa Valley looked to even things back up, it took two big penalties in the red zone to bring up fourth-and-24. Junior quarterback Ryan Schuster found Harris, who fought through defenders and dove into the end zone to tie it at 14 with 3:55 to play.

“(The offensive line) gave us good time to throw the ball, and I just waited for the two wide receivers to clear out,” Harris said. “That cleared out the safeties, and I just made the play.”

More:Detroit News high school football scoreboard: District quarterfinals 

And, then, with Eisenhower looking to regain control, Isaiah French came blazing off the edge, hit Eisenhower quarterback Preston Crum to force a fumble, and Aaron Mitchell recovered at the 8 to set up Harris for the go-ahead score with 2:08 on the clock.

“That was a huge play for us,” Merchant would add.

Chippewa Valley regressed this year after a state championship in 2018 and back-to-back MAC Red titles. Its regular-season finale was then canceled due to COVID.

A comeback win in the opening round of playoffs is always a thrill, but for Merchant, this one — which gives Chippewa Valley the chance to continue playing — feels just a tad bit more special.

“It’s a tough, tough time,” Merchant said. “You go back, you see the news, and you read the paper the next day, and you’re like, ‘Is this ever going to end?’

We’re just trying to keep everybody safe and give them an opportunity to hopefully play for two hours on Friday night. For those two hours, the world’s right again.”

Aiden Ives caught nine passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns and Anthony Cardamone caught three for 65 for Eisenhower (2-5).

Eisenhower got on the board with 5:02 left in the first quarter. Crum faked the give and found Ives on a post route for a 35-yard touchdown throw. The PAT was blocked, leaving Eisenhower with a 6-0 lead.

Chippewa Valley started to drive halfway through the first, but the Eisenhower defense came up big. Luke Aniel sacked Schuster on third-and-10 before Eisenhower blocked the ensuing field-goal attempt.

Eisenhower’s Aleks Glelaj recovered a fumble in the first quarter.

Crum pinned Chippewa Valley at its 1 with a great punt in the second quarter. Harris got Chippewa Valley out of the jam, bouncing the first-down play to the outside and streaking up the sideline for a 40-yard gain. Eisenhower got a stop on fourth-and-1 to end the threat inside its own 30.

Each team had their chances to add a score before halftime, but defense ultimately reigned supreme as Eisenhower entered the locker room with a 6-0 lead on the Ives touchdown.

Eisenhower gambled on fourth-and-3 with just under 3:00 to go in the third quarter. Crum got crushed while letting go of a bomb down the sideline, which was caught by Ives for a 44-yard touchdown pass. Eisenhower went up 14-0 after converting a two-point attempt.

Schuster started the game 3-for-3 for 39 passing yards before Eisenhower tightened its coverage and forced seven incompletions on Schuster’s next eight passes.

Chippewa Valley’s offense responded with ferocity for the first time all night, and it had the run game to thank. Harris opened the drive with a 14-yard run before Hawkins escaped up the middle and down the sideline for a 56-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7 with 1:46 left in the third.

On its next drive, Chippewa Valley’s backfield got right back to it. Harris and Hawkins pounded the ball to easily reach the red zone. But a holding penalty on first-and-10 at the 19, followed by a delay of game, killed all momentum and forced a fourth-and-24 at the 33.

At least it appeared to kill the momentum. Schuster loaded up and hit Harris at the 10, Harris shook off a tackler, tip-toed down the sideline, and got into the end zone to make it 14-14 with 3:55 to go.

Three plays into the next Eisenhower drive, Chippewa Valley kept it rolling. French crashed the backfield and strip-sacked Crum as Mitchell’s recovery made it first-and-goal at the 8.

Harris ran the ball twice and got into the end zone on a 4-yard touchdown drive to go up 21-14 with 2:08 to go in the game. 

More first-round games

Allen Park 18, Trenton 7: Ethan Baugh had 11 carries for 50 yards and one rushing touchdown, and Sunerio Hamilton had 12 carries for 89 yards for Allen Park.

Dearborn 20, Monroe 15: Adam Rammouni had a 45-yard touchdown pass and two interceptions and Noah Dobert had 120 yards receiving and a touchdown for Dearborn.

Detroit Central 26, Detroit Community 22: Sivad Jefferson had 80 yards rushing and two touchdowns and Kenyatte McKeever had a 22-yard rushing touchdown and 15-yard receiving touchdown for Central.

Detroit Denby 34, Detroit Cody 0: Keyon Hammond gained 278 yards combined rushing and receiving with two rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns, Dwight Houston had 186 passing yards with two touchdowns and a rushing touchdown and Dejuan Swilling-Young had three sacks, two forced fumbles and six tackles for a loss for Denby.

Detroit King 59, Warren Woods-Tower 14: Quarterback Dante Moore was 10-for-15 passing for 211 yards and four touchdowns. Chansey Willis Jr. carried the ball three times for 113 yards and one touchdown. Trae’vion Meadows had an 80-yard kick return touchdown and Lynn Wyche-el scored on a punt return for King.

Head coach Ty Spencer said his team had “great energy” throughout the game.

“Warren Woods scored on us first but the team responded well. We created turnovers that sparked some momentum. They played well on all three phases,” Spencer said.

King will play Marysville next week in the second round.

Detroit Southeastern 61, Detroit Douglass 0: De’Sean Matthews ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns, Brett Brown ran for 114 yards and one touchdown, Leron Roseboro threw for 101 yards and two touchdowns, Domimic Harris had eight tackles and three sacks, Marquise Dancy had eight tackles and an interception return for a touchdown, and Kevin Sturgis had six tackles and two sacks for Southeastern (6-1). Douglass is 0-7

Harper Woods Chandler Park 46, Center Line 18: TJ Brown had 11 carries for 168 yards and three touchdowns for Chandler Park.

Livonia Stevenson 49, Westland John Glenn 13: Caden Woodall had 20 carries for 342 yards and five touchdowns for Stevenson. Nick Wetmore was 13-for-24 passing for 276 yards and Justin Hart had nine catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns for John Glenn.

Macomb Dakota 43, Macomb L’Anse Creuse North 6: Zach Droski threw for 100 yards and three touchdowns, Uko Umana had two receiving touchdowns and one rushing, Caiden Sloan ran for 80 yards and a touchdown, Collin Jasman had a receiving touchdown, and Aiden Mata had an interception return for a touchdown for Dakota (6-1). North is 0-5.

North Farmington 44, Waterford Kettering 13: Justin Whitehorn had 31 carries for 314 yards and three touchdowns and Aaron Rice had two receiving touchdowns for Farmington.

Ortonville Brandon 57, St. Clair 0: Micah Miller was 8-for-11 passing for 191 yards and two touchdowns, Jawon Slater had 113 total yards and three touchdowns, Brayton MacQueen had 100 total yards and two touchdowns, Peyton Gulledge had eight tackles and a fumble recovery and Drew Hickmott had an interception return for a touchdown for Brandon.

St Clair Shores South Lake 48, Clawson 21: Jaheim Frazer had 10 carries for 100 yards and one touchdown, Dazohn Grier had 12 carries for 110 yards and one touchdown, Amari Carter had eight carries for 115 yards and one touchdown, and Mark Terry had a 60-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown for South Lake.

U-D Jesuit 28, Grosse Pointe North 0: Patrick McVeigh had 25 carries for 168 yards, Chris Mutebi had three catches for 73 yards and Drew Kremhelmer had four tackles for U-DJesuit.

Warren Michigan Collegiate 42, Bradford 0: Jamar Willis had a 66-yard rushing touchdown and Omarion Duncan had a 33-yard rushing touchdown, Omar Hanne had eight tackles, Davion Harris had seven tackles for Warren.

Warren Mott 47, Warren Cousino 0: James Chaney was 9-for-11 passing for 255 yards and three touchdowns, KJ Allen had five catches for 133 yards and a touchdown, Daiyon Anderson had one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown, and Tommy Milanoz had 10 tackles, two sacks and one fumble recovered for Mott.

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer; Detroit News staff contributed.