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FOOTBALL: Country Day punches ticket for playoffs with win over Brighton

BEVERLY HILLS – Although Friday night’s non-conference football game between Birmingham Detroit Country Day and Brighton wasn’t technically a playoff game, it certainly had all the makings of an intense postseason tilt.

With both schools needing just one more win to become playoff eligible, Country Day and Brighton threw down on the high school gridiron, squaring off for a chance to keep their season alive.

Behind an impressive night offensively, it was the Yellowjackets (6-3) who stepped up on the big stage, knocking off the visiting Bulldogs, 35-16.

“I’m very proud of my team,” Country Day coach Dan MacLean said. “Give credit to Brighton. They’re a good football team, and they came to win. But our kids just rose to the occasion.”

Knowing what was on the line, Country Day quarterback Tyler Wiegers had himself a day, leading his experienced group of playmakers to a convincing win in front of a rowdy home crowd.

The 6-foot-3 senior completed 11-of-14 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns, pacing the Yellowjackets offense against a hungry Brighton team.

“This was a great game,” Wiegers said. “Brighton is a good team, but we had some confidence that we could score a little bit on them. We treated tonight like a playoff game. It was a great atmosphere.”

After exchanging touchdowns on each team’s opening drive, the Bulldogs took the lead after drilling a 36-yard field goal with 1:37 left in the first quarter. Unfortunately for Brighton, that would be its only lead of the night.

“I loved the effort my guys gave tonight,” Brighton coach Cliff Kiefer said. “Obviously, it’s not the result what we wanted, but (Country Day) came up with some big plays. I’m proud of my guys. They did a great job.”

Trailing 10-7 in the first half, Wiegers would take over, marching Country Day down the field in seven plays, including two key passes that would set up the Yellowjackets deep inside Bulldogs territory. Senior Richie Wilson would cap the drive, giving Country Day a 14-10 lead early in the second quarter – a lead the Yellowjackets would not surrender.

A solid defensive stand by Country Day on Brighton’s ensuing drive, put the ball back in Wiegers’ hands, and he capitalized, connecting with classmate Maurice Ways on the next play for a 50-yard touchdown.

“(Maurice) is an amazing player,” Wiegers said. “We’ve been building up our chemistry, and he’s a great weapon for our offense. He also helps to open up everything else for our other guys.”

Up 11, the Yellowjackets’ defensive unit was called upon again. The Bulldogs scrapped their way to inside Country Day’s five-yard line, but a huge tackle for loss on fourth-and-goal turned the ball back over to the Yellowjackets.

“That was a huge play,” MacLean said. “I told the guys before the game that champions make big plays like that. I’m very proud of our defense. (Brighton) had us on our heels for a little bit there, but the guys came through.”

On the very next play, with 97 yards of field in front of him, Wiegers threw his best pass of the night – a deep ball down the sidelines to Ways for another touchdown, giving Country Day six points on back-to-back offensive plays.

“(Maurice) is having a great season for us,” MacLean said. “I think (Wiegers) and (Ways) complement each other really well.”

Ways finished the night with two touchdowns on five catches for 180 yards. And MacLean understands how valuable it is having a tool like that for Wiegers to use.

“It’s a huge advantage to have guys like that,” he said of the pair. “I think what’s most impressive about them is their maturity. It’s obvious that they’re talented individuals, but the fact that they’re willing to lead and not have it be all about them.”

Country Day’s Tony Addison added a second-half touchdown, pushing the lead to 35-10 in the third quarter.

Brighton would also add a late touchdown, bringing the score to its final margin of 35-16. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they’ll now have to wait and see if they can sneak into the postseason at 5-4 by virtue of earning enough playoff points.

“We still have a chance to get into the playoffs,” Kiefer said. “But we’ve just got to wait and see.”

For the Yellowjackets, MacLean knows how big of a win this was. And he credits his leaders for winning six-straight games and overcoming an unimpressive 0-3 start to the season. Though, he also knows that there is still a lot of work to be done if his team wants to make a return trip to the Division 4 state finals.

“These last six weeks have been a lesson in perseverance and in leadership,” MacLean said. “If we focus on the things that have gotten us here, we will keep it going. We don’t have to try and do too much.”

Last Updated: 10/26/2013 2:40:27 PM EST

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