There are big games, and then there are the circle-them-on-the-calendar opponents that teams wait all year to face.
This Friday afternoon, two such squads will line up across from one another in a key Michigan Independent Athletic Conference tilt in Grosse Pointe Woods.
“This is one you look forward to all year,” Liggett football coach Dan Cimini said of his team’s 4:30 p.m. game against Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest on Sept. 20. “It’s always been a great rivalry for us.”
“It’s one of those games the kids mark down when the schedule comes out,” Northwest coach Don Justice said. “(Liggett) is going to be ready to go, and our guys will be, too. It’s a chance to compete against a quality team.”
It’s also a game both teams desperately need to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Liggett, which defeated Auburn Hills Oakland Christian 34-0 last weekend, is 1-2 after opening the year with losses to Royal Oak Shrine and Montrose High.
Northwest, which is also 1-2, earned its lone win by way of forfeit in the opening week and has since lost to Shrine and Southfield Christian.
“We’re finally healthy, and that’s a big deal for us,” Justice said of his guys. “Right now, there are a lot of the fundamentals we have to focus on — securing the ball, hitting and wrapping — things like that we have to do to have a chance against a speedy and talented Liggett team.”
In its 44-8 loss to Southfield Christian, Northwest turned the ball over nine times.
“We have to cut down on the mistakes,” Justice added.
As for Liggett, which is the defending league champ, Cimini knows Northwest has had its struggles so far, but looking past the Crusaders isn’t a mistake he and his guys are about to make.
“They are going to be looking for a big win, and if we let our guard down, they can get it against us,” Cimini said. “Anytime you play a rival, it’s a game you have to be ready to go in. We want to win the MIAC again, and whichever team wins this game is going to have a huge advantage in the standings. The key for us is to take care of ourselves.”
Liggett won last year’s meeting 33-14.