by Calli Newberry
There’s nothing like a good crosstown rivalry to get the Blue Water Area excited on a Friday night, but when those two football teams lead the conference, it’s even better.
Port Huron and Port Huron Northern will meet up in their shared Memorial Stadium tonight at 7 o’clock for the highly-anticipated matchup. Northern leads the Macomb Area Conference-Blue with a perfect 6-0 record (4-0 MAC) while Port Huron also boasts a perfect conference record, but suffered an early-season loss to put the Big Reds at 5-1 overall (4-0 MAC).
“It’s been pretty regular lately that we’re both good teams,” Port Huron High head coach Dan Perkins said. “Our records have been pretty similar and this game has come down to the championship of the league recently.”
Advertisements - Click the Speaker Icon for Audio
Preparing for tonight has been a matter of focus for both teams. The winner will walk away the MAC-Blue Division title, something the two teams have done for the last three seasons. The Huskies won in 2018 and 2019, and the Big Reds took over as champions in 2020 and will look to repeat tonight.
“We’ve got a good scout on Northern and I’m sure they do on us. We know each other very, very well,” Perkins said. “So really, it’s a matter of making sure the kids are prepared so they can play fast. I think if we play fast and aren’t thinking, we’ll do our best work.”
Fast will be the key for tonight’s game, something that Northern head coach Larry Roelens said his team’s been improving upon. In the first two conference games, the Huskies only won by one score, relying heavily on their defense to hold opponents off while their offense gained momentum. But in the last two games, they’ve found some momentum with a pair of big wins: 42-14 over Sterling Heights and 27-14 against L’Anse Creuse.
“We’ve scored some points the last few weeks. Offensively, we’ve got it rolling right now with the kids up front. They’re blocking well, we’re running the ball pretty well, and Dylan [Bloink is] throwing the ball decently, so all three phases are working for us right now,” Roelens said. “They’re a good group of kids. They’re pretty focused on the task at hand, they understand their job and their assignment, and are ready to take care of business.”
Northern’s defense, which has held opponents to just eight points a game on average so far this season, will have to hold back a strong Big Reds offense that’s averaging 30 points a game and has beaten opponents by 10 points on average.
Perkins, who is in his first year at the helm of the Port Huron football program after 12 years as defensive coordinator, said this year brings an entirely new offense, which is proving to be rather effective.
“It’s a whole new regime I guess, or outlook if you want to call it that, but it’s actually the same too. Offensively we’ve changed a lot of stuff, but defensively we’re very similar to what we have been,” Perkins said. “Everybody’s always gelled really well, but it’s just continued to improve. It’s been fantastic. I’ve got a coaching staff that is second to none if you ask me.”
Despite the intensity of tonight’s game, Roelens said he’s reminding his team that it’s still just football.
“We’re just trying to prepare our kids to make sure they understand that it’s a big game, but at the exact same time it’s the same thing they’ve been doing for the last six, seven weeks,” he said. “Even though there might be a little more added to it, at the end of the day we’re just still playing football.”
There will certainly be a lot added to it with thousands of fans packing both sides of the stadium, but that’s what’s so great about a local rivalry.
“It’s even bigger now with all the stuff that’s gone on pandemic-wise. I think people are very, very excited,” Perkins said. “I’m around quite a bit in the community with my own son and daughter playing football, basketball, and softball, so everyone I run into wants to know how things are going and how we’re getting ready for this week. People on both sides of town have struck me as really positive and are looking forward to a really good matchup in that both of the teams are doing really well. I think it’s going to be an important night for everybody.”