Chips seek third straight win in historic rivalry against Orioles

Manistee’s Seth Pefley (right) hits Ludington quarterback Chad Large during last year’s game. Pefley and Large will be on opposite sidelines tonight for the 122nd installment of the rivalry between the Chippewas and Orioles. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate file photo)

At random times during the day, Tyler Kempf is overcome with one thought running through his mind.

It’s a vision of blue and gold versus orange and black, and the Manistee senior’s last crack at the historic rivalry.

“This is the biggest game of my life, pretty much,” Kempf said. “Leading up to it, I’ve had chills.”

Battle No. 122 in the Manistee-Ludington rivalry, which started in 1895 and the Orioles lead 63-51-7, commences at 7 p.m. tonight at Chippewa Field. According to the Michigan High School Athletic Association, it’s the third-longest rivalry in the state in terms of games played and tied for 14th in the country. Newcomers to the rivalry aren’t unaware of its significance.

“I’m looking forward to coaching in it,” said first-year Manistee coach Tod Miller. “I’m very nervous seeing how the young men perform under fire. I know we’ve got to bring some emotion to it, we’ve got to weather Ludington’s emotional storm and then see where it all ends up.”

Kicking off the season against an archrival is hardly an ideal scenario for a new coaching staff.

“It’s a lot tougher opening with this game,” Miller said. “No matter what, it’s one out of nine. For our football team, as a coaching staff, as players, we want to win this as bad as anybody does. We also put a realistic picture on it. We’re building a program here, it’s going to take steps and this is one step.”

Manistee won the last two games — both thrillers decided by a total of three points and both ending with Ludington missing 2-point conversions late in regulation. The Chippewas held on for a 36-34 win against the Orioles last year for their first win in Ludington since 1998 — also the last time Manistee had won back-to-back games in the rivalry.

Tonight the Chippewas will seek their third straight win against the Orioles for the first time since 1983 as part of a streak in which Manistee went 8-0-1 against Ludington from 1978-86, according to michigan-football.com.

“I hope the breaking the trends continues this year,” Miller said with a laugh.

For all the history involved with the rivalry, tonight brings a big change from recent years as both teams will be spreading the field. Manistee no longer runs the Wing T and has spent the first two-plus weeks of practice implementing a new offense.

“We’re ready,” Miller said. “What’s going to be the true test is if we can eliminate the penalties caused by aligning wrong, changing a snap count up, getting the correct snap counts, all the little things we’ve been having some issues with. We had way too many mistakes in the scrimmage (at Big Rapids last week) and our offense is going to go if we can clean up those things. We have a plan also as a coaching staff that if they can’t do it, we’ll simplify it a little bit more for them.”

Kempf got reps as a Wing T quarterback last season, but will be making his first start under center against Ludington.

“I’ve been really focusing up on knowing not only what I have to do, but what everyone else has to do,” he said. “I have to get in that mental state where I have to be calm and help out everyone else if they need it.”

On the other sideline, Ludington has senior quarterback Chad Large, who factored in all five of the Orioles’ touchdowns against Manistee last year with three on the ground and two in the air.

“The pressure is on us,” Miller said. “They have a very good football player in Chad Large and it’s no secret that we’re going to have to shut him down if we’re going to win the football game.

“We don’t want to get into a shootout with a new offense and new personnel,” Miller added. “Our defense is much stronger, I think, than it’s been the last couple years, just based on film and that. Is it good enough to hold them down? I hope so.”

 

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