Chippewa Valley gets the Eisenhower monkey off its back, beating Eagles, 45-24
SHELBY TWP. — It was just a little wiggle of the hips, but it broke the biggest threat into the open.
And it may have gotten a monkey off the back of an entire program.
David Ellis’ little hip fake got the lone Utica Eisenhower defender remaining in front of him to commit, allowing him to scamper untouched down the home sideline for an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, flipping momentum squarely back to his Mt. Clemens Chippewa Valley Big Reds, re-establishing a two-score lead.
“Probably after I got past the kicker, I knew I was gone, yeah,” chuckled Ellis, who also ran for a touchdown and caught a touchdown in Friday’s clash between Macomb Area Conference Red powers at Swinehart Field.
“Man, to have that cushion, it was like ‘Man, alright, we can relax just a little bit.’ Can’t take the foot off the gas, because they’re still a great team, but to have that distance — you can breathe.”
Ellis’ return touchdown was part of a 28-point second-half barrage by the No. 8-ranked Big Reds, as they steadily pulled away from No. 15 Eisenhower for a 45-24 win, snapping a five-game losing streak in the rivalry.
“Honestly, there’s no better feeling. This is for all the seniors that passed before us, that graduated. I can’t even explain it,” Ellis said. “It’s just the best feeling ever, man.”
Eisenhower held a 35-6 margin in the rivalry coming into Friday, including two first-round playoff wins — a tide the Big Reds have been waiting seemingly forever to turn.
“The last time we’ve beat them was 2013. We’ve had some great games with them, but they’ve had our number, so it’s kind of nice to get that monkey off our back,” Chippewa Valley coach Scott Merchant said. “Give them credit, right? What’ve they lost, two games in the last two years? Not many people have beaten them. They have a great program. We knew it was going to be a tough game, and it was. This is what the MAC Red is all about.”
It’s still going to be a dogfight, too. The Big Reds (3-0, 1-0 MAC Red) face Anchor Bay and Macomb Dakota the next two weeks, while the Eagles (1-2, 0-1) have to regroup against Romeo and Sterling Heights Stevenson.
“We were just outmatched today. That’s what it comes down to,” Eisenhower coach Chris Smith said. “When you play a team that’s a veteran team like they are, they’re going to make big plays on you. We just couldn’t keep up with their playmakers. We’re going to be OK. We got a lot of positive things that our team did out here, and a lot of things we did wrong. We’re just going to go watch the film, and get better. This game will definitely make us a better team.”
Despite the lopsided final score, the Eagles certainly weren’t an easy out, trailing 17-14 at the half, and cutting the Big Reds’ lead to a single score on Caleb Oyster’s 28-yard field goal just moments before Ellis’ big return.
Ike quarterback Blake Rastigue cut it back to seven with a 4-yard touchdown run — his second, to go with a 63-yard touchdown bomb to Ian Kennelly in the first half — four plays into the fourth quarter, but Chippewa Valley would salt it away with two more rushing touchdowns, and two Eisenhower turnovers.
Ja’Von Kimpson, Andre Chenault and Ellis all had rushing touchdowns in the second half for the Big Reds, who made a rather radical philosophical shift at halftime, completely eschewing the forward pass.
Prior to the break, quarterback Tommy Schuster was 11-for-18 for 175 yards, tossing touchdowns to Ellis and Daniel Stout. But he didn’t throw a pass after the half, merely handing off a lot.
“Obviously I like to throw, but when our run game’s doing that good, you gotta just keep going with it,” Schuster admitted.
“We saw stuff in the pass game. We had some things there … there was stuff there,” Merchant said, “but in the second half, we just decided hey, we can’t throw the ball as much, we need to kind of flip it. It was two-to-one pass-to-run in the first half. We put it on our O-line and our backs, and we said ‘Hey, if we can run the football, we’re going to win this game.’”
Chippewa Valley had a three-point lead at the break, thanks to a 31-yard field goal by Niko Kepi, then ground the ball down the field 76 yards on their first drive of the second half, scoring on Ellis’ 2-yard run to make it 24-14.
The Eagles responded with Oyster’s field goal to make it 24-17, but Ellis returned the ensuing kickoff to swing the momentum right back.
“David Ellis is a big-time football player. It’s cliche, but big-time football players make big-time plays in big-time games,” Merchant said. “They’d just cut it to seven, and they had momentum, and it shifted momentum back, like that. I think that took a little bit of something out of them. Yeah, that was a huge play by him.”
It was almost a no-doubter, too, one of those where the entire sideline starts raising its arms in celebration before the returner crosses the goal line.
“I heard a big block, and I heard coach say ‘He’s gone,’ and I knew it,” Schuster said.