Dakota football making some noise in MAC Red

By: Jon Malavolti | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published September 26, 2012

 Dakota senior quarterback Richmon Render runs with the ball during a game earlier this season. Render has helped lead the Cougars to the top of the MAC Red Division.

Dakota senior quarterback Richmon Render runs with the ball during a game earlier this season. Render has helped lead the Cougars to the top of the MAC Red Division.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Don’t look now, but Macomb Dakota football is back on top.

The Cougars were 3-0 in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division and 4-1 overall at press time after a key 24-6 win over Utica Eisenhower Sept. 21. The victory over the Eagles, last year’s MAC Red champs, put the Cougars in the driver’s seat for this year’s division title.

“It was a big win for our team,” Dakota coach Mike Giannone said. “The win keeps us in first place with only two division games left.”

After dropping their first game of the season, 27-17 to Dearborn Fordson, the Cougars have won every game since, including outscoring their three MAC Red foes Stevenson, Romeo and Eisenhower by a combined 97-34.

Giannone said a pair of changes along the offensive and defensive lines after that Aug. 23 loss have proven positive for Dakota.

“We made two big moves after the first game that I think have helped the most,” the coach said. “We moved Scott Mysara back to the offensive side of the ball where he started every game last year as a sophomore, and Brandon Lozon back to the defensive side of the ball where he played every down as a sophomore.”

Another key for the Cougars’ offense, which is averaging a MAC Red best 32.3 points per game in league play, has been the effort put forth by senior signal-caller Richmon Render.

“The play of our quarterback has been a big factor in what we have been able to do on offense,” Giannone said. “Richmon Render has done some really nice things for us this year.”

On the other side of the ball, Dakota’s defense has given up just 11.3 points per game in the MAC Red, again tops in the league.

“Our front seven have learned how to play together and have given our secondary some help,” Giannone said about the defense.

As for the remainder of the season, the coach wants to see his team improve in a couple of aspects, including “not giving up the big play” and “keeping the concentration level we have had each week at a high level.”

Next up for the Cougars is a MAC crossover contest against Warren Cousino (2-1 MAC White, 2-3 overall) at 7 p.m. Sept. 28 at home.

When asked about his goals for the team following the Ike game, Giannone first responded, “Win the MAC Red.”

Dakota can clinch a share of the MAC Red title at 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at Utica Ford (0-3 MAC Red, 0-5)

The Cougars’ annual rivalry game with Chippewa Valley (2-1 MAC Red, 4-1), slated for 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at Chippewa, will likely have major division standing and playoff seeding repercussions. The Big Reds’ other remaining division game is a 7 p.m. Oct. 5 home contest against Stevenson (2-1 MAC Red, 4-1).

Dakota hasn’t won the division title since splitting it with Stevenson in 2008. The program last won it outright in 2007.

The Cougars close out the regular season at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at home against Roseville High (0-3 MAC White, 1-4).

The playoffs then begin Oct. 26, and don’t expect Dakota to enter quietly.

The other goal Giannone wants to see his team accomplish?

“Make some noise in the playoffs.”