Assistant coach Joe D’Orazio approached head coach Tom Milanov with a question as the Warren Mott players warmed up before their showdown with No. 2 Macomb Dakota.
“You notice the mojo out here?” D’Orazio asked.
Notice it? Milanov was almost stampeded by it.
“Coming out of the locker room they wanted to tear the doors down,” Milanov said. “It’s kind of cool when the kids take it and run with it.”
Even cooler was the way the Marauders took the game and ran to an impressive 32-27 victory in the rugged Macomb Area Conference Red Division.
This was an important game for the Marauders and they were more than ready, racing to a 20-0 halftime lead.
“You could tell at the beginning of the game they knew that they could win,” Milanov said. “It was one of those things where we didn’t want to go in at halftime. They wanted to play the game through the half.”
Mott (3-0) won by using all of its many offensive weapons and an incredible defense that intercepted four passes and held Dakota (2-1) to a mere 83 yards rushing.
“A lot of time the rushing yardage is deceiving because of the sacks, but we couldn’t get ahold of him last night,” Milanov said Saturday morning. “Their offensive line did a nice job protecting, so that 83 yards is a true 83 yards. We’re fast on defense.”
Truth be told, Mott is fast everywhere — defense, offense and special teams.
You don’t dominate Dakota for a half without excellent team speed and much more.
Mott used the passing and running of quarterback Mike Pond and combined it with the running of backs like Jayvon Wilson, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound, two-way standout who had a sensational 28-yard touchdown run.
“Jayvon’s a smaller guy but he runs angry,” Milanov said. “For a smaller guy, he runs tough. He runs punishing. He plays safety and fills the alley and makes ball carriers pay when he hits them. You get every bit of the 165 pounds out of him.”
Cornerback Tylen Redding did not have an interception, but he was so good at locking down his receiver Dakota couldn’t throw to his side of the field. Safety Kyran Daniels added 12 tackles to push his season total to 35, and also contributes as a running back.
Mott suffered a jolt when Pond was injured in the third quarter, and Milanov is hoping it is just a sprained knee. But he has every confidence in backup Jason Lilaj, who began the season sharing the spot with Pond.
“It wasn’t until midway through last week that Pond took over and got the majority of the reps,” Milanov said. “Jason is a capable kid. He came off the bench last year against Stevenson and on his second rep he threw a 4th-and-9 touchdown pass to basically save our season. He’s got moxie.”
Dakota has a lot of moxie, too, and the Cougars came roaring back from that 20-0 deficit to make a game of it, mainly through the air.
But the Mott defense made key stops when it had to — and that could be turned into a positive as well.
“We kind of had to hang onto the side of the cliff at the end there,” Milanov said. “That part was good, too, because it tested the guys’ mettle and they were able to step up at the end.”
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.