20 YEARS OF STATE CHAMPS! 20 STATE CHAMPIONS SERIES: 2006 MACOMB DAKOTA COUGARS
Macomb — The 2000s Macomb Dakota football program was the quintessential “microwave dynasty.” The greatness happened fast. Practically, out of nowhere.
The Cougars appeared in five Division 1 final fours in six seasons and won two state titles in a row in 2006 and 2007 respectively, solidifying Dakota as a Macomb County stalwart and perennial championship contender on the gridiron. Dakota fielded its first football team in 1996 and didn’t win its first game until October 1997.
Dakota’s 2006 club broke the seal. Mike Giannone’s championship tradition began with that team.
Gianonne was the architect and built the Cougars into champions from the ground up. He grabbed the reins in 1998 and by Year 2 of his regime, Giannone had Dakota in the playoffs.
“Those were gratifying times, seeing the community and the kids fall in love (with the program) and fully believe in what we were doing,” Giannone said.
The ’06 squad went 13-1. Facing defending state champion Rockford in the state finals, Giannone’s Cougars routed to a 38-16 victory to take the crown.
“That game set the standard for everything going forward,” Giannone remembered. “We imposed our will on Rockford and executed to perfection.”
Dakota led 31-10 at halftime. Greg Gay’s fourth touchdown of the day on a 1-yard run closed the curtain on the Rockford Rams late in the third quarter to make it 38-10. Gay also found the end zone on 2 and 4-yard rushes and a 76-yard reception he caught from all-state senior quarterback James Stallons (10-of-13 for 202 yards through the air). Sophomore wide receiver Rodney Hush returned a pair of punts for a combined 102 yards on special teams.
Bringing pressure all game, the Cougars’ defense tallied 5 sacks. Bobby Hush (linebacker) and Jeff Dowdell (defensive end) had two apiece. Linebacker Kevin Kimball collected 9 tackles to highlight the unit’s wrap-up brigade.
Stallons played his college ball at Wisconsin, Grand Rapids Community College and then finally tearing up the record book at DII Shaw University in North Carolina. Gay moved to wide receiver at the next level when playing for Grand Valley State.
The 2007 Dakota state title team finished undefeated at 14-0. Stallons’ 2006 back-up Mitch Lovett (Saginaw Valley State) quarterbacked the ’07 club to the state championship.
Giannone stayed at Dakota for 18 years, where he claimed 9 league, 11 district and 5 regional crowns. Spending four seasons at Warren De La Salle, he grabbed. two more state titles at the Division 2 level. Today, he heads the program over at Anchor Bay.