Birmingham Detroit Country Day’s Derrick Coleman and the Yellowjackets are looking for their first state football championship since 1999. They play Grand Rapids South Christian in the Division 4 state championship game Friday night. (Special to The Oakland Press/LARRY McKEE)
FOOTBALL FINALS: Detroit Country Day’s ultimate goal now within reach
BEVERLY HILLS — Before the season started, the Birmingham Detroit Country Day football team met up and set some lofty goals for itself.
Among the goals, the Yellowjackets aspired most to be state champions.
And after putting a 38-0 spanking on Saginaw Swan Valley last week, Country Day is poised to reach its goal of capturing a state title.
The Yellowjackets (11-2) will go to work on Friday evening (7:30 p.m.) and try to make their preseason dreams come true in the Division 4 state finals against Grand Rapids South Christian (10-3) at Ford Field.
“Our kids are focused,” Country Day head coach Dan MacLean said. “This is a great group of kids. They’re a very goal-oriented group, and I think they’ve gotten better every week.”
It’s not often that you see a running clock go into effect in a state semifinal, but behind a great night defensively and an equally impressive night on offense, Country Day put a beat down on Swan Valley and easily punched its ticket to Ford Field.
“Our kids were very highly motivated last week,” MacLean said. “They knew it was the next step, and they came out ready to play.”
Grand Rapids South Christian stands in the way of the Yellowjackets’ state championship hopes. The Sailors have battled their way through the top half of the Division 4 bracket, knocking out Paw Paw, Dowagiac, Three Rivers, and Comstock Park.
“We’re going against a very strong team,” MacLean said of their opponent. “You don’t get to this point without being a good team.”
South Christian features a balanced offensive attack, similar to the balance that Country Day boasts.
“As a coach that deals primarily with our defense,” MacLean said. “I know how tough it is to prepare to defend a balanced attack, like the one that we have.”
Junior tailback Richie Wilson has been a touchdown machine for the Yellowjackets this postseason, scoring four touchdowns in consecutive weeks against Grosse Ile and Swan Valley.
“He’s a special player,” MacLean said of Wilson. “The skills he has aren’t taught. You either have them or you don’t. I think because our offense is so balanced, it really opens things up for Richie.”
Part of what makes Country Day’s offense so potent is its balance. Along with Wilson, junior quarterback Tyler Wiegers provides the Yellowjackets a spark. He, too, is ready for their big game.
“We’re a very confident team,” Wiegers said. “We’ve had a great run so far, but we didn’t work this hard to just get to Ford Field. We’re focused, and we’re ready to work hard and get this win.”
Country Day’s defense has quietly flown under the radar because of the team’s high-octane offense. But last week, against one of the state’s toughest runners, Alex Grace, the Yellowjackets defense stepped up in a huge way and put them in position to win the game.
“I think our guys really bought into the fact that he was a guy that they needed to stop,” MacLean said of Grace. “Our defense knew that he was a primary focus of their offense, and I thought they were up to the challenge. They played great.”
“Our defense was great last week,” Wiegers said. “They didn’t let Swan Valley breathe. It gave our offense time to get rolling, and I think that’s why we’re so dangerous.”
MacLean coached Country Day to a Division 5 state championship in 1999, and he thinks that this year’s team is ready to make their dreams come true. Wilson, also, is excited about Friday.
“We’ve got to come out aggressively,” he said. “I tell these guys all the time, but it’s true. We need to be aggressive, and we can’t take a play off. Every play, we need to be fighting for something.”
“We’ve got to come out ready to play,” Wiegers said. “Our coaches are going to have us prepared, and we just need to come out and execute the game plan.”