Eagles fly fast in season-opening win

Eisenhower uses fast-paced offense to overcome slow start against Plymouth

By: Thomas Franz | Shelby - Utica News | Published September 2, 2015


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — NASCAR season at Michigan International Speedway is over for the year, but a NASCAR-style offense at Utica Eisenhower is just getting started.

The Eagles unveiled their “NASCAR” offense in a 38-24 season-opening win against Plymouth on Aug. 27.

“It just feels good to come out here and the things we have practiced, our speed offense, the no-huddle and the Nascar stuff that we got,” Eisenhower coach Chris Smith said. “We really came out and wore these guys down, and that was the difference in the game.”

Eisenhower senior running back Joe Mets, who rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, said the Eagles were able to put into motion what they’ve been perfecting in the offseason.

“It’s a lot faster in practice. I think it’s 50 plays in 15 minutes. It’s crazy fast,” Mets said. “The actual practice is harder than the conditioning at the end. It took a long time for the team to get acclimated to it. It’s definitely a different style than what we’ve ran in previous years.”

The up-tempo offense helped Eisenhower recover from falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter.

In his first start at quarterback, sophomore Max Wittwer bounced back after a tough first quarter by leading Eisenhower on three consecutive scoring drives in the second quarter.

Wittwer scored on a short quarterback run, and then Kadari Johnson tied the game with a 57-yard touchdown run. Wittwer connected with Jack Provencher for a 34-yard touchdown to give Eisenhower its first lead at 21-14 with 5:47 left before halftime.

“Sophomore quarterbacks make sophomore mistakes, but I thought he was very composed. He didn’t let that bother him,” Smith said of Wittwer, who tossed a pair of early interceptions. “Everybody has confidence in each other right now, and that keeps a kid like Wittwer composed and ready to play.”

Plymouth’s Chris Walls had Wittwer’s number in the third quarter, as he recorded two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. The other pick was a one-handed grab in the end zone as the Eagles were driving deep into Plymouth territory.

Wittwer again bounced back, however, as he connected with Provencher on a nearly identical 33-yard touchdown to put the Eagles up 28-21 with 2:41 left in the third.

“We threw four interceptions and still won the game. That’s a positive for us. We just have to eliminate the turnovers,” Smith said.

As the Eagles’ defense stifled Plymouth’s offense, Mets sealed the game with a 5-yard touchdown run with 2:37 left in the game.

“After halftime, we had to keep the pace going. We knew we couldn’t slow down,” Mets said. “The amount of conditioning we did all summer proved it. Our game plan was to wear them down, and it worked.”

Eisenhower’s defense held Plymouth’s offense to three points after the first quarter and forced five turnovers while also taking advantage of a first-time starting quarterback.

Austin Mitchell and Andrew Szalkowski each recorded an interception, and Salvator Vultaggio recovered two fumbles.

“We’ve been emphasizing one, taking care of the ball, which we had an issue with our interceptions, but two, causing turnovers, and I thought our defense caused some turnovers and that really helped,” Smith said.

Cameron Stella led Plymouth with 136 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Walls and Victor Abraham each recorded two interceptions.

“I just think we got up 14 and we thought we won,” Plymouth coach Mike Sawchuck said. “We kind of shut it down.”

The Wildcats took over possession on their own 19-yard line trailing 30-24 with 4:48 left, but lost a fumble on the second play of the drive.

“Even with the four turnovers, we stopped them, and we still had a chance to drive down and score and kick the extra point to win, but we just didn’t get it done,” Sawchuck said. “A lot of kids made some good plays.”

Plymouth will take on Pinckney in Week 2.

The win gave Eisenhower its first win in a season opener since the 2012 season. The Eagles will take on Sterling Heights Stevenson at 7 p.m. Sept. 3 at Swinehart Field.