Country Day Delivers for Longtime Coach
January 22, 2021
By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half
DETROIT – As the final seconds ran off the clock during the Division 4 championship game Friday night at Ford Field, it all began to set in for Detroit Country Day senior Danny MacLean.
He finally got to see his dad, Yellowjackets’ head coach Dan, win an MHSAA Football Finals championship.
“I’ve been here five times now, we hadn’t won a game at Ford Field,” the younger MacLean said. “I was always the ball boy, the water boy out on the field. Now, senior year, coming out here and getting one for that guy, it means the world to me. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Country Day defeated first-time finalist Cadillac, 13-0, picking up its third-straight shutout in these playoffs. The Yellowjackets last won a Finals championship in 1999, that coming in MacLean’s second year as the head coach at the school. His teams fell a win short in 2007, 2008, 2012, 2016 and again in 2019.
“I thought I couldn’t win in Ford Field. I was like, ‘Can we get the Silverdome back?,’” MacLean joked after the game. “It is very good to be back (winning). This was wonderful to do this, especially with this group of kids in particular. I said it many times this week. I was a single guy when I started at Country Day 36 years ago, and (Danny) is my youngest child of five, and it’s just a joy.”
MacLean’s children – Jack, Maureen, Mike, Kathleen and Danny – all graduated (or will) from Country Day. Each of the three boys played football for the Yellowjackets.
“He’s built a family around (Country Day),” Danny said.
MacLean and fellow senior Nick Wachol spearheaded a dominant Yellowjackets defense, which limited the Vikings to just 166 total yards. MacLean and Wachol each finished with a team-leading nine tackles. Wachol had three tackles for a loss to go along with two sacks. MacLean had a key interception late in the second quarter, helping to keep Cadillac off the scoreboard just before halftime.
“We’ve been riding our defense all year,” Coach MacLean said. “They just have a tremendous amount of pride, and they just do their job. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my coaches. John Wilson, Steve Mann, who’s been with us a long time. Dave Furlong and Jake Topp, who was really instrumental tonight. He is more of an offensive guy in certain ways, but he designed that scheme to stop their option and the kids executed.”
Cadillac used five running backs in the game, along with junior quarterback Aden Gurden, who led the team with 14 carries. Junior Collin Johnston led the Vikings with 53 yards rushing, while sophomore Kaleb McKinley and Gurden added 39 and 37, respectively.
Coach Cody Mallory’s team moved the ball at times against Country Day’s stout defense, but couldn’t finish when it needed to.
“Their defense is very good; they’re very physical,” Mallory said. “I felt like this was the first time all year that we haven’t been able to move the ball. Even in our losses prior to this, we were able to get things going on offense. Country Day was extremely physical up front and very fast on the back end.”
Country Day opened its scoring with a pair of Graham Doman field goals in the second quarter. The first came with 11:09 to play in the half, as Cadillac’s defense turned the Yellowjackets away and forced them to settle for a 19-yard field goal. Same thing happened later in the second quarter, as the Vikings’ red-zone defense forced Country Day to kick a 26-yard field goal with 3:42 left before the break.
The Yellowjackets’ offense scored its lone touchdown of the game with a 12-play drive which took 6:33 off the clock to open the third quarter. Four Country Day players ran the ball, with freshman Gabe Winowich capping things off with a four-yard touchdown to give his team a 13-0 lead.
From there, the defense took over for the Yellowjackets. Cadillac had just six possessions in the game. The Vikings punted twice, turned the ball over on downs twice, threw the interception to MacLean, with the sixth possession ending at halftime. Senior Joe Miller collected eight tackles in the win, while juniors Caleb Mathis-Miller and Brandon Mann each added six.
Offensively, Country Day just wore Cadillac down. Junior Parker Yearego had 12 carries for 71 yards, and Mann had 11 more for 40 yards. In all, the Yellowjackets rushed the ball 36 times. Mann was also 11-for-14 passing for 106 yards.
“If you can keep the ball away from them, then they get frustrated,” MacLean said. “They like to bleed the clock. We kind of flipped the script on them. The key was our defense allowed us to get them off the field at times.”
While Country Day was making its ninth trip to the championship game, it was Cadillac’s first time playing for a title. Mallory was proud of the way his team battled Friday night and excited his program could proudly represent northern Michigan.
“I feel like football up north does get overlooked a bit,” Mallory said. “I’m really happy our conference had two teams go deep in the playoffs. That says a lot about where football is up there.”
Mallory said it was a great learning experience for his team.
“It takes failure for you to grow,” Mallory said. “While there were a lot of successes to get us to this point, in this game, we fell short and we’re going to have to grow.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Danny MacLean raises the trophy as Detroit Country Day celebrates its Division 4 championship Friday. (Middle) Country Day’s Caleb Mathis-Miller (48) helps drive Cadillac’s Collin Johnston out of bounds. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
March 27, 2023
The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.
The one-day camps will take place between May 15-18 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.
Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.
“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”
Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.
All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.
MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.
“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”
The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.