Chiefs renew rivalry with Wildcats on Thursday

Published 7:26 am Wednesday, August 30, 2006

By By SCOTT NOVAK / Dowagiac Daily News
History will be made on Thursday night when the Dowagiac varsity football team plays host to Three Rivers.
Dowagiac will be playing the first Thursday night varsity game in the program's history. The Chieftains will also be meeting Three Rivers on the gridiron in a regular season game for the first time since 1972.
Dowagiac and Three Rivers have met four times since 1972 – all in the playoffs. The Wildcats own a 1-3 record against Dowagiac in the post season, including a 13-7 win over the Chieftains in their last meeting in 2000.
In the regular season since 1950, Dowagiac has had a much better success rate against Three Rivers.
The Chieftains have posted an 18-5 record in regular season match-ups. Dowagiac defeated Three Rivers 27-0 in their last regular season meeting back in 1972.
Previous meetings and old records will mean nothing to these two schools on Thursday night, however. The Chieftains and the Wildcats will only have one thing in mind when they renew their rivalry at Chris Taylor-Alumni Field – improving to 2-0 on the season and staying atop the Wolverine Conference standings.
Dowagiac opened up with a 46-21 victory over host South Haven on Friday night in its Wolverine Conference debut.
Three Rivers defeated Allegan 21-6 in its season opener.
Dowagiac and Three Rivers, like many schools around the state of Michigan, have a short week of preparation due to the holiday weekend.
There is an old coaching saying that a team makes its most improvement between weeks one and two.
"But they never had three days to prepare for their second game," quipped Mike Stanger, Dowagiac's head coach.
The Chieftains know they must improve before facing the Wildcats on Thursday night.
Despite the lopsided final score, the Chieftains did not play all that well on the offensive side of the football.
"We need to do a better job of getting off the ball," Stanger said. "We didn't have much of a push up front. But give South Haven some credit. They had two fast linebackers and their nose guard was all-conference last year. They were pretty good on defense. But we still need to move the ball better and more consistently and that comes with a push from our offensive line."
Three Rivers played well enough to win last Friday night as it competed for the first time without standout running back John Lewis.
Lewis was the Wildcats' first two-time All-State selection. Lewis gained 3,894 yards and scored 54 touchdowns in his career.
In his opening game last year, Lewis rushed for 463 yards and scored seven times.
So the Wildcats have had to make an adjustment.
One of the players trying to replace Lewis is senior tailback Tim Dyer, who rushed for 90 yards on 15 carries. One of those runs was a 50-yard touchdown jaunt.
Dyer also scored on a five-yard run.
Quarterback Alan McEnroe was 7-of-10 for 127 yards and a touchdown as the Wildcats tried to balance out their offense.
One of McEnroe's passes was to Jason Evans for a 25-yard touchdown.
Kickoff at Chris Taylor-Alumni Field is set for 7 p.m. All of the games in the Wolverine Conference will start at 7 p.m. this season.
Dowagiac's freshmen and junior varsity squads travel to Three Rivers tonight for their second games of the season.
The freshmen game is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., with the junior varsity tilt set for 6:45.
Dowagiac voted as the favorite
The Chieftains have been voted as the favorite in a poll of the Wolverine Conference coaches published last week in the Kalamazoo Gazette.
The Chieftains received five first place votes and tallied 77 points.
Gull Lake was second with 66 points and Vicksburg, which was defeated by defending champion Comstock in the season opener, 43-20, was third with 65 points.
Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.