Roseville football eyeing success, challenges

By: Jon Malavolti | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published October 5, 2011

 Roseville High junior running back Jalen Milledge looks for running room during a game earlier this season. The Panthers are hoping for more success in the final third of the regular season.

Roseville High junior running back Jalen Milledge looks for running room during a game earlier this season. The Panthers are hoping for more success in the final third of the regular season.

Photo by David Schreiber

ROSEVILLE — As the final third of the regular season gets under way, the Roseville High football team is exactly where it wants to be.

With two crucial league games and a crossover contest remaining, the Panthers control their own fate.

Roseville was 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the Macomb Area Conference White Division with a game played after press time at Warren Mott Sept. 30.

“We’re focused right now on Mott,” Roseville coach Mel Richendollar said at practice Sept. 28. “But after that, if we can win the next two, we can win our division. Our destiny is in our own hands.”

The Panthers were tied with Utica Ford II and Grosse Pointe North for second place in the division; all three teams trailed Warren Cousino, which was 3-0.

Roseville visits Cousino next at 7 p.m. Oct. 7, before hosting Grosse Pointe North at 1 p.m. Oct. 15. Should the Panthers win both remaining contests, they’re guaranteed a share of first place.

“We’ve just got to be able to win those two,” Richendollar said. “Those are two tough games.

“We just have to keep improving. We’ve been doing a pretty good job of improving each week.”

Roseville lost to Ford Sept. 16, but Ford dropped a league game to Grosse Pointe North back on Sept. 1. North’s lone league loss was to Cousino on Sept. 9.

In other remaining league games crucial to the MAC White crown, Ford hosts Utica High Oct. 7 before visiting Cousino Oct. 14, while Grosse Pointe North hosts L’Anse Creuse North Oct. 7 before coming to Roseville. Both Utica and L’Anse Creuse North were 0-3 in the league, though Utica, the defending MAC White champ, has one of the stingiest defenses around.

Roseville’s regular-season finale is against Chippewa Valley, which like Mott, competes in the MAC Red. While a win against Chippewa would have no bearings on the Panthers’ division standing, it could be key to postseason positioning. Six wins are needed to lock up a state playoff berth, while five-win teams can be admitted to the postseason via tough-to-land wild-card spots, and seven wins could mean Roseville might host a playoff game, or at least avoid a trip to a local powerhouse.

Richendollar said one of the major keys of the team’s recent successes — being in position to win the league this year and making the state playoffs the past two seasons — is the talent on the field.

“We’re just fortunate that we have some athletes,” the coach said. “I just look at it like, I don’t want to lose any games for my kids. With the talent that we have, we try not to lose the game, and have to be prepared and able to adjust to what (opponents) give you.”

Should the Panthers finish at or near the top of the league, they could be under consideration to move into the tough MAC Red Division next year during realignment. Roseville has steadily risen through the ranks of the MAC since Richendollar took over about a decade ago, bringing the program out of the basement of the MAC Blue Division.

“As far as where we’re going to end up, if we get to the Red, we’ll compete,” he said. “If that’s where they tell us to go, we’ll go there. It’s a challenge. … We just need to coach what we have and look at what we need to do.”