| Special to Detroit Free Press
For much of Friday night — not to mention much of this century — Birmingham Detroit Country Day followers wondered if their football program could finish the job.
The Yellowjackets controlled the ball for nearly nine minutes on their first drive, but it stalled out at the Cadillac 2, and Country Day settled for a chip-shot field goal from Graham Doman.
The outcome of the second possession was similar — the Yellowjackets reached the 5, but decided to go for three after a dropped third-down pass, and Doman split the uprights from 34 yards away.
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But that was more progress than Country Day (9-2) allowed Cadillac, which never even reached the red zone, as the Yellowjackets ground out a 13-0 victory in the Division 4 state championship.
“Everybody kind of senses that the defense is going to pull us out. Last week (a 12-0 semi-final win over Williamston) was a similar game. We never got on track offensively and did just enough, and closed it out at the end,” said coach Dan MacLean, whose squads had been 0-5 at Ford Field; good enough to reach the title games in 2007, 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2019, only to come up short.
Nick Wachol excelled defensively for Country Day, with nine tackles, three tackles-for-loss, and two sacks. He effectively ended Cadillac’s chances when he brought down quarterback Aden Gurden for a nine-yard loss with three minutes to play, forcing Cadillac to go for it on a fourth-and-12, resulting in a dropped screen pass.
“I came blitzing off the edge as hard as I could, put my head down, and I was so happy,” Wachol said. “Our games had always been pretty close this year, and our D stepped up. We watched film on them, knew they liked to run the option, put our defensive tackles in the gaps and watched the pitch.” \
Danny MacLean, the coach’s son, also had nine tackles, along with the game’s only takeaway, an interception.
Country Day closed out the year with three straight shutouts, also blanking North Branch 38-0 in the regional and Williamston 12-0 in the semi-final. The Yellowjackets allowed 90 points in 11 games this season in winning their first state title since 1999.
The lone touchdown for Country Day came on the opening drive of the second half.
Freshman Gabe Winowich took a handoff on first-and-goal from the 4, running to the left sideline and turning the corner, with just enough room to dance into the end zone to cap the 6½-minute, 13-play drive.
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The prior play, a 15-yard run by quarterback Brandon Mann, was the most productive of the series. Mann rushed 11 times for 25 yards and completed 11 of 14 passes for 106 yards. Parker Yearego was Country Day’s most productive rusher, gaining 71 yards on 12 carries — most of them working sideline-to-sideline.
Cadillac (9-3), playing in its first state final, couldn’t crack the Yellowjacket defense. The Vikings were limited to 150 yards, all on the ground — they didn’t connect on four pass attempts. Collin Johnston (53 yards) was Cadillac’s leading ground-gainer.
“They played good, violent football like they had all year,” Cadillac coach Cody Mallory said. “Our backs were against the wall and they came up with some pretty good stops to force field goals, and really, we just couldn’t get it done on offense. We struggled doing basic stuff that we had been doing for a while, but that’s going to happen when you play good teams.”