Chips, Orioles continue historic rivalry Friday

With just nine games in the regular season and limited spots in the playoffs, high school football teams have little room for error. In other words, every contest on the calendar counts in a big way.

There are some games, though, that mean even more…

Friday will mark the 142nd meeting between Manistee and Ludington, whose football rivalry ranks second-longest in terms of games played in the state. The competitive relationship dates all the way back to 1895, as the Orioles hold a slight edge in the all-time series with a head-to-head record of 68-62-11.

In recent years, however, the Chippewas have laid claim to the bulk of the bragging rights and, with it, possession of the coveted “Dads Trophy.” Since 1950, Manistee is 34-28-1 against Ludington, with a 6-3 record over the past decade, including wins in their last two meetings.

While the history isn’t lost on either team, the two are certainly on a collision course in the here and now. Both will enter Friday’s 7 p.m. game at Chippewa Field with a 2-0 record, each looking to hand the other its first loss of the season.

“I’m sure we’ve got a target on our back, and we want to keep that trophy,” said Manistee coach Troy Bytwork. “So, I think we’ll be plenty fired up for it and I’ve got a feeling they will be too.”

Ludington has made easy work of its first two opponents, shutting out Fremont (35-0) on the road in Week 1 and cruising past Hesperia (55-24) at home on Friday.

Manistee, meanwhile, has showcased two different ways to win thus far. The Chippewas had to find their footing in a 29-15 victory over Mason County Central in Week 1, rallying late to overcome a brief deficit in the fourth quarter. And then on the road this past Friday, they were firing on all cylinders while cruising past Whittemore-Prescott to the tune of 57-20.

“It felt like a continuation of the fourth quarter against (Mason County Central), when things finally started to click for us,” Bytwork said of last week’s win over Whittemore-Prescott. “You could even tell during warmups. …They were loose, they were relaxed, and once the game got rolling everything was clicking offensively and the defense played physical.

“The week before, (against Mason County Central), was one of those games you come out kind of feeling like you escaped,” he said. “Last week was far from that. We got out in front early and stayed there. It was a good game.”

The Chippewas’ first-year starting quarterback Keelan Eskridge had a breakout performance last week, as the junior threw for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 7-of-9 passing, while also rushing for three scores, compiling 126 yards on 15 carries.

Manistee senior Blake Mikula also had a monster night, leading the team in both rushing and receiving yards with 155 on nine carries and 93 on four catches, while scoring twice on the ground and twice through the air.

Bytwork said the Orioles have a similar makeup, with a few key veterans and a wave of first-year starters.

“It’s a couple teams with a lot of kids gone from last year and a lot of kids who are new to this matchup at the varsity level,” he said. “These kids have played against each other in the JV, middle school and Pop Warner days, so they’ve experienced it, but it’s just a little different under the lights.

“We’re familiar opponents, obviously. They’re running the same stuff they’ve run, and we’re running the same stuff we’ve run. From there, it comes down to execution.”

As if history, bragging rights and a traveling trophy weren’t enough incentive, the matchup also represents the first Lakes 8 Conference game of the season for both sides. The Chippewas are the defending champions, having won their first outright conference title in nearly 60 years a season ago.

“When you’re in a five-team conference, there’s not a lot of room for error,” Bytwork said. “If you plan to win it, you figure you’ll probably have to run the table and that obviously starts with Game 1.”

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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