CLINTON TOWNSHIP – Utica Stevenson’s football team punched its ticket to the state playoffs after its sixth win of the season, a 24-7 decision Oct. 5 against at Chippewa Valley.
Amidst an on and off again downpour, the Titans controlled most of the game and ensured themselves a place in the postseason for the first time since falling in the 2009 state final. Stevenson finished 1-8 last year and 2-7 in 2010.
“This is huge,” Stevenson coach Steve Goralski said. “I think maybe there were some people who perhaps started to doubt us a little bit, for us to turn this around. It’s just a tremendous turnaround for the kids and the program.”
Stevenson improved to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division.
Chippewa, which has also missed the past two postseasons after last playing in the playoffs in 2009, fell to 5-2 and 2-2 in the MAC Red.
“We have to go back and see what we did right, see what we did wrong and try to fix our mistakes,” Chippewa coach Scott Merchant said. “We knew Stevenson was a good team. They outplayed us tonight. They deserve to win.”
Stevenson got on the board early thanks to some big plays on its opening drive. The Titans quickly marched down the field and registered a touchdown after quarterback Kyle Maxson connected with receiver Tyler Sykes, who spun around a defender and sprinted into the end zone with 7:47 remaining in the first quarter. Kicker Nicholas Mearnic converted his first of three extra points on the night to make it 7-0.
The Titans added to their lead with a 1-yard scoring run by tailback Trevon Bauch with 8:55 to play in the second quarter. Receiver Greg McDade hauled in a pair of back-to-back passes to set up the scoring play.
McDade later had a big punt return, about 30 yards, to set up a 30-yard field goal by Mearnic to make it 17-0 for Stevenson with 2:14 left in the first half.
The Big Reds’ offense came alive on the next possession, as Chippewa found its way onto the scoreboard when quarterback Brendan Rohlfs found receiver Adrian Hulaj in the end zone on a fouth-and-11 pass from 30-yards out. Kicker Szabolcs Simo converted the extra point to make it 17-7 with a little less than a minute before halftime.
Neither team scored in the third quarter. The fourth quarter saw Stevenson’s Bauch explode for a 49-yard touchdown run to make it 24-7 Titans with a little more than nine minutes to play.
Both teams were also looking to remain in the hunt for the Macomb Area Conference Red Division title. Macomb Dakota was alone in first place entering the weekend at 3-0, and had already beat Stevenson earlier this season.
Dakota plays at Chippewa at 7 p.m. Oct. 12, while Stevenson hits the road to take on Utica Eisenhower at the same time on the final weekend of MAC Red play.