Dakota downs Chippewa Valley with late score

By: Zachary Manning | Online Only | Published September 18, 2020

 Macomb Dakota's Caiden Sloan breaks a tackle against Clinton Township Chippewa Valley Sept. 18. Dakota won 29-20.

Macomb Dakota's Caiden Sloan breaks a tackle against Clinton Township Chippewa Valley Sept. 18. Dakota won 29-20.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

 Chippewa Valley's Maddox Altamirano finds some open space against Dakota Sept. 18. Altamirano had two touchdowns in the game.

Chippewa Valley's Maddox Altamirano finds some open space against Dakota Sept. 18. Altamirano had two touchdowns in the game.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

CLINTON TOWNSHIP –– The fans weren’t able to pack the stands like usual, but Clinton Township Chippewa Valley and Macomb Dakota still treated spectators to a classic rivalry game Sept. 18.

The squads entered the fourth quarter tied at 20-20, but it was the final five minutes that proved to be pivotal. With just over five minutes left in the quarter, the Cougars embarked on a seven-play drive that resulted in a go-ahead field goal by Kollin Kralapp.

The Big Reds had one minute to try and tie the game, but De’Javion Stepney picked off an errant pass and returned it for a touchdown as time expired to clinch a 29-20 Dakota victory.

“To me it’s the best rivalry in the state of Michigan,” Cougars coach Greg Baur said. “Chippewa, Dakota — it’s all you need to say. Everybody knows what that means.”

Dakota relied heavily on the veteran presence of its offensive line to move the ball down the field. Caiden Sloan was the main beneficiary of that strong push, collecting three rushing scores.

The Cougars move to 1-0 overall and in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division. They will hit the field again to take on Sterling Heights Stevenson at 7 p.m. Sept. 25.

“Two special running backs, but I think we got a really, really good offensive line,” Baur said. “Three juniors up there that I think are going to be special players and two seniors that are really, really good.”

The Big Reds got off to a slow start, falling behind 13-0 early in the first half, but Chippewa Valley coach Scott Merchant loved the fight his guys showed to get back in the game.

The Big Reds led 14-13 at the half. Zion Mitchell found the end zone from 1 yard out and Ryan Schuster connected with Maddox Altamirano on a 45-yard touchdown pass. Altamirano also hauled in a 64-yard touchdown reception.

“First quarter was really ugly, but kind of to be expected with so little football under our belt,” Merchant said. “We went toe to toe with those guys. I thought our kids did a great job.”

The Big Reds don’t have much time to reflect on the loss before getting ready for another MAC Red clash. Chippewa Valley plays again at home at 7 p.m. Sept. 25 against Romeo High.

Merchant said he told his team to continue growing and improving to peak at the right time. He noted last year that his team may have peaked too early, which resulted in a first-round exit from the playoffs at the hands of Dakota.

“We’re going to grow and we’re going to get better every week. Our goal as coaches is to develop our players and our team every year,” Merchant said. “It’s definitely a learning process and that’s one of the better teams in the state. We showed that we can hang with the best in the state, so we should get some confidence from that.”