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Chippewa Valley football opens season with win against Saline High

By: Mark Vest | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published August 29, 2019

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 Clinton Township Chippewa Valley quarterback Josh Kulka prepares for a throw against Saline High Aug. 29. Chippewa opened its season with a 35-21 win against the Hornets.

Clinton Township Chippewa Valley quarterback Josh Kulka prepares for a throw against Saline High Aug. 29. Chippewa opened its season with a 35-21 win against the Hornets.

Photo by Donna Agusti

DETROIT — Clinton Township Chippewa Valley football started its 2019 season the same way it did last year, with a win against Saline High.

This year’s version of the Big Reds came away with a 35-21 victory Aug. 29 at Wayne State University.

Chippewa is the defending Division 1 state champion, and the Hornets made it a D-1 semifinal last season.

Opening up against such a challenging opponent was no accident for Chippewa, which competes in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division.

“The MAC Red, to me, is one of the toughest leagues, if not thee toughest in the state, so for us to get ready for that we need to play great competition,” Chippewa coach Scott Merchant said following the game. “Saline is great competition, and we’re fortunate to win tonight. … It’s a good measuring stick for us. I think a lot (of) people thought we were (going to) be really, really down this year, and I think our kids showed that we still have some pretty good players left.”

Things didn’t start off well for Chippewa, with the Hornets scoring on the first possession of the game, courtesy of a 67-yard carry by running back Cade Gilless.

It didn’t take long for Chippewa to answer back, as Carde’ Johnson returned a kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown. Following an extra point, the game was tied at 7-7.

After a 2-yard run by Antwaine Gunter, Chippewa led 14-7 after the first quarter of play.

After Gunter scored again on a 7-yard run late in the second, the Big Reds took a 21-7 lead into the half.

Chippewa’s only touchdown in the third came via a 15-yard run by Myren Harris.

After Gilless scored again for Saline, Chippewa led 28-14 after the third.

The Big Reds’ last touchdown of the game came on a 2-yard run by Harris in the fourth.

Saline scored late in the game to close the gap.

The work of Chippewa’s offensive line got the attention of Merchant.

“You win and lose games up front, period — on both sides of the ball,” Merchant said. “These kids are athletic; kids that can run. We have about six of (them) that can play in there, and makes everybody’s job a lot easier when you can run the ball and protect, and that’s what those guys did.”

Merchant also singled out quarterback Josh Kulka, who took over that role following the graduation of Tommy Schuster.

“I love the way Josh Kulka played,” Merchant said. “He played, for his first high school varsity start, phenomenal. So, kudos to Josh. And then I like the way we pounded the ball; like the way we pounded it. When you can do that it opens up a lot of other things in the passing game, and I think that’s what happened.”

Kulka was asked if taking on the role of quarterback is a challenge he embraces.

“Of course it’s nerve-wracking, but you know I like it; I like the pressure,” Kulka said. “I feel like I got something to prove. It makes me (want to) work harder.”

Chippewa plays at 7 p.m. Sept. 6 at home against Roseville High.