Utica Stevenson football team hosts Warren Mott in pre-playoff tune-up
Both teams have already secured spots in the 2012 Michigan High School Athletic Association state playoffs, but the Utica Stevenson and Warren Mott football teams won’t take it easy when the squads meet up in the regular-season finale.
Game time is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 19 at Stevenson.
“Every victory is important,” said Mott coach Tom Milanov, whose team sat at 7-0, 4-0 in the Macomb Area Conference White Division at press time. “You definitely would like to carry positive momentum in to the playoffs.”
The playoff berth is the sixth in seven years for the Marauders, who at press time sat atop the MAC White.
The Titans (6-1, 3-1 MAC Red) return to the postseason after missing the playoffs in 2010 and 2011. Stevenson, currently one game behind Macomb Dakota for first place in the MAC Red, battled its way to a Michigan High School Athletic Association state championship game appearance in 2009.
Although both teams’ playoff spots are secure, seeding and a better draw are at stake in the season finale.
“This is huge,” Titans 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.”
Both teams have played well on both sides of the ball all season. At press time, the Titans at press time had put up 31.4 points per game (up from 12.8 in 2011), while allowing just 15 (down from 28.9).
Mott has been strong as well, averaging 41.6 points per contest. The Marauders have the second-stingiest defense in the entire MAC, holding opponents to 6.1 points per game.
Goralski said he and his team have treated the final three weeks of the regular season as de facto playoff games. Each of the squads Stevenson has faced — Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, Utica Eisenhower and Mott — have either already locked up or is on the verge of securing playoff spots.
“These are the types of teams we’re going to see all the way through (the playoffs),” Goralski said. “We’ve just got to take care of our business.”
Milanov takes a similar approach. He said he teaches his players the importance of going all-out in every game.
“Our schedule has set up nicely too, with our crosstown rivals (Warren Cousino) in Week 7, followed by two playoff teams (Port Huron High and Stevenson),” Milanov said. “That competition will have us well-prepared for the playoffs.”
The Mott coach said execution in all three phases (offense, defense and special teams), along with great effort and focus, are key in the matchup.
Goralski agreed, adding the Titans’ defense has been key in the program’s resurgence.
“I’m just glad we’re playing games that have some meaning,” he said.