If recent history repeats itself, Friday night’s Division 1 district football final between visiting Livonia Churchill and Canton won’t be decided until there’s, oh, about 0:01 showing on the fourth-quarter scoreboard.
And based on the two teams’ tendency to light up the scoreboard when they face each other, spectators should expect a ton of points.
On Oct. 3, Canton (8-2) survived a late Charger charge to pull out a 40-35 victory in a game played on the Plymouth-Canton Education Park’s junior-varsity grass field.
The Chiefs prevailed, 35-28, in 2013, after the Chargers chalked up down-to-the-wire victories in 2012 (43-40) and 2011 (27-26).
“If Friday night is anything like the games we’ve played against Canton the past four years, it will be an exciting game for the fans,” predicted Churchill head coach Bill DeFillippo, whose team takes an 8-2 mark into the rematch. “Looking back at the film of [the Oct. 3] game, our kids played with great effort. We had a chance to win at the end even though we had four turnovers and 11 penalties.
“There’s a long list of things we need to improve on from that game, but the two biggest thing are eliminating mistakes and winning the big-situation plays. Every time there was a big play in the first game, they seemed to win it.”
The psychological advantage to losing the first game of a same-season rematch is minimal at best, DeFillippo said.
“As a coach, you hope the redemption angle gives you an edge, but who really knows if it will,” he said. “There’s a tendency to think that the team that won the first game will have a slight mental letdown just because they won the first time, but that wasn’t the case at all when we played Plymouth last week. We beat them pretty good in the regular season and our kids responded well in the rematch [a 38-14 Churchill victory]. You just never know how things will play out.”
After facing the Chiefs on the grass one month ago, the speed-to-burn, spread-it-out Chargers won’t benefit from playing Friday night’s game on the PCEP varsity stadium’s faster field-turf surface.
“Neither team will have an advantage from the change of fields, one way or another,” DeFillippo said. “We’re both used to playing on turf. Playing on the grass really wasn’t a factor in the first game. We had a couple kids slip in the first quarter, but I didn’t see anything after that. It all comes down to who executes better, not what kind of field we’re playing on.”
A victory over the Chiefs on Friday night would propel the Chargers into the quarterfinal round of the Division 1 playoffs for the first time since 2004, when they dropped a 31-7 decision to Sterling Heights Stevenson.
Churchill advanced to the D1 district final round in 2012 before getting sidelined by Plymouth, 20-14.
The Chargers have outscored their opponents 406-227 this season while the Chiefs have gained a point advantage of 354-176 over their 10 foes. The winner of the Churchill-Canton match-up (7 p.m kick-off) will face the victor of Friday ‘night’s Monroe (7-3) at Saline (9-1) encounter.