In the first-ever meeting of what many consider to be two of Macomb County’s strongest football programs, Macomb Dakota outlasted Warren De La Salle 19-14 to move on in the 2013 Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 state football playoffs.
The predistrict playoff game was played Nov. 1 at Dakota.
Dakota (10-0) moves on to face Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (9-1) in a D-1 district final. Game time is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at Dakota. Chippewa Valley (9-1) downed Macomb L’Anse Creuse North (8-2) 49-27 in a D-1 predistrict, played Nov. 1 at Chippewa Valley. The Cougars knocked off the Big Reds 52-7 Oct. 18, sealing a Macomb Area Conference Red Division title in the process.
“It always feels good to move on. We expected a great game, and I like the outcome,” Dakota coach Mike Giannone said after the win over De La Salle. “That’s a good football team we just beat. It was will against will. They played well. I just thought we played a bit better.”
The Nov. 1 matchup between Dakota and De La Salle (6-4) was a back-and-forth affair. The contest was decided when Dakota senior defensive back/wide receiver Mustafa Abdur-Rahman picked off a pass on fourth-and-10 with 5:55 left in the game to give the ball back to the Cougars. At the time of the pass, the Pilots had the ball at the Dakota 38-yard line.
“Mustafa has been a playmaker all year,” said Giannone of Abdur-Rahman, who also hauled in two receiving touchdowns.
Cougars senior quarterback Tyler Crowell was a playmaker in the game, as well, throwing for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns. In what would prove to be the game-winning score, Crowell found senior wide receiver Angelo DiMaggio for a 43-yard score as time expired in the third quarter to put Dakota up 19-14.
DiMaggio in the contest caught two passes for 103 yards and one score.
Pilots coach Paul Verska said he had hoped his team wouldn’t give up big plays. He said inexperience in the secondary led to some breakdowns in that area, including on the winning score.
“We just blew a coverage completely and a guy was wide open,” Verska said. “We had our opportunities and didn’t capitalize, and they made the plays when they had to.”
De La Salle quarterback Giovanni Rescigno rushed 22 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns in defeat. His second score put the Pilots up 14-13 with 8:26 to play in the third quarter. De La Salle sophomore running back Eric Rogers picked off Crowell to give the Pilots possession prior to that score.
Dakota recorded 15 first downs, while De La Salle tallied 12.
For more information on the 2013 MHSAA state football playoffs, check www.candgnews.com or www.mhsaa.com.