Tonight's District Final between the Utica Eisenhower Eagles and the Macomb Dakota Cougars was a MAC Red Week 8 rematch. In Week 8, the Eagles defeated the Cougars 24-8 at Eisenhower, however tonight's game was being played at Dakota's home field.
The Cougars used their home field advantage and a fired up crowd to rally and win 28-10. "We played these guys three weeks ago and for us to come out and play like we did, it shows character," said Cougars head coach Mark Giannone.
"It was more about redemption then it was revenge. We heard we couldn't match up with them because they're quicker and tougher then we are. They're a tough team, they always are but we just came out with some fire power to pull it out," said Giannone.
The two teams traded touchdowns as the Eagles scored first behind senior quarterback Tony Zerafa's 6-yard touchdown run. The Cougars answered right back as junior quarterback Mark Morris found junior wide receiver Deandre Smith behind the Eagles secondary for a 29-yard touchdown pass.
Play in the first half was a bit sloppy as the teams tried to settle their nerves, the Cougars turned the ball twice and the Eagles once. However the big plays came when the Cougars had a first and goal from the Eagles' 2-yard line.
Junior running back Brandon Hughes was stuffed for no gains on his first two attempts. Hughes was given the ball again and tried to leap over the line but was met at the Eagles' 1-yard line. Then on fourth and goal from the 1, Hughes was met in the backfield by three Eagles' defenders and was stopped for a 3-yard loss.
The Eagles built off that momentum and drove down the field in the final minutes of the first half. With the drive stalling at the Cougars' 7-yard line the Eagles were forced to try a 24-yard field goal. Senior kicker Mason Krysinski converted the field goal and gave the Eagles a 10-7 halftime lead.
"I don't know what we did differently," said Giannone. "Maybe it was a coach's torment from that goal-line stand or maybe we just got the kids that fired up."
Whatever it was Giannone said to his Cougars at the half worked as the Cougars came out and put up 21 unanswered points. Morris threw bombs of 51 and 52 yards for touchdowns to Smith and senior wide receiver Jordan Gay, once again exploiting the Eagles in man coverage. Then Hughes put the lights out on the Eagles season when he added a 3-yard touchdown run with just under 9 minutes left to play.
"Coach G came in at half and gave us one great speech," said junior quarterback Mark Morris. "We got fired up in the locker room and it carried over. Our defense played great, constantly gave us great field position in the second half."
Morris completed 8 of 10 passes for 162 yards and 3 touchdowns while also throwing 1 interception. Deandre Smith led the receivers with 3 catches for 86 yards while scoring 2 touchdowns and he also had an interception on defense.
"The coaches had been pushin me hard all week in practices this week," said Smith. "They kept tellin me to run hard and use my speed. It paid off tonight."
The Eagles were led offensively by quarterback Tony Zerafa who was 11 for 23 passing with 132 yards and 1 interception. Zerafa also had 25 carries for 120 yards and 1 touchdown. Senior running back Jack Sauber had 7 carries for 47 yards and 6 catches for 77 yards.
The Macomb Dakota Cougars (9-2) will be playing in a Regional final next week at undefeated Clarkston (11-0). Game time will be announced later in the week. The Utica Eisenhower Eagles finished their season at 7-4.