Country Day defense shines in 14-12 Division 4 Football District Finals victory over Notre Dame Prep
After the offensive fireworks that were on display across the state last night, it was only fitting that week two of the high school playoff season would end with a defensive struggle that saw the Yellow Jackets of Detroit Country Day hold on to defeat the Fighting Irish of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 14-12 in a Division 4 district final game that moved rather quickly but saved most of its excitement until the very end.
The first half of this one was really a defensive battle. Country Day tried hard to control the clock by running the ball down the gut on the Fighting Irish. And while the Yellow Jackets did manage to own the clock possession game, it yielded very little, with Country Day’s only first half score coming thanks to a 21 yard strike from highly touted junior quarterback Tyler Wiegers to wideout and fellow junior Maurice Ways at two minutes and 19 seconds of the first quarter. They would enter the break up seven to nothing and holding Notre Dame Prep to a mere 29 total offensive yards.
The Yellow Jackets only real explosive play came on their second possession of the second half, as sophomore Jacob Hill returned a punt 65 yards to the Notre Dame four. Junior running back Richard Wilson was able to punch it in four plays later to give the Yellow Jackets a 14 point lead at the time.
“Jacob Hill did a terrific job. I think half of our team thought he scored, but their kid did a great job making them line up again,” said Country Day head coach Dan MacLean.
But with just over two minutes to go in the third quarter, the Fighting Irish passing attack suddenly caught fire. Junior signal caller Brenden Newvine, getting the start for injured senior Joe Kutil, went 4 for 6 on the drive for 68 yards and finished things off with a touchdown run from 11 yards out to cap a 79 yard drive that took just a little over a minute to complete.
The Irish would miss the extra point, however, and that would prove to be costly, as would the loss of leading rusher and linebacker Jermaih Johnson to a knee injury at the end of the quarter.
Notre Dame Prep was able to hold the Yellow Jackets in check, as Country Day had only 23 total offensive yards in the second half. That gave Prep a chance to tie late in the fourth when Newvine once again completed a drive with his feet, this time from inside the five. But do to the earlier missed PAT, the Irish were forced to go for two, and the play was beautifully sniffed out by senior linebacker Cotter Lamb.
“He was trying to throw on that play and I just went down and got him,” said Lamb of his victory preserving play.
The Fighting Irish came into this year with a very young team, having lost seventeen seniors off of last year’s district finals squad. But Head Coach Kyle Zimmerman’s crew showed great resolve and put together a tremendous season when many had them pegged for a bit of a falloff from last year.
“We’re out-sized every week. Two teams get off the bus and physically you’re not picking us. But our kids are a bunch of warriors and I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids or a better effort,” said Zimmerman of his team’s valiant battle.
Meanwhile, coach MacLean couldn’t have been more pleased with the way his team stood tough all game and came through in the end, at one point recording sacks on three consecutive plays.
“The guys just kind of rallied when they had to and made some big plays. I told the guys that the defensive line would be the difference and I think it was."
Country Day now moves on to a regional final matchup next week where they’ll play host to Grosse Ile. That game will take place next Saturday, November 9th. Time is to be determined.