The Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Cranes (9-1) will battle the Detroit Country Day Yellowjackets (9-1) in a MSHAA district final this weekend. This game will determine the Region 4, District 2 Champion, who will move on to regional action in the weeks ahead.
Both teams have had fantastic seasons at 9-1, with great steps in the first round of the playoffs. The Cranes dispatched the St. Clair Shores South Lake Cavaliers (8-2) 35-14 last Friday, while the Yellowjackets handily defeated Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy (6-4) 36-0 last Saturday.
Cranbrook’s football program under the direction of third year Head Coach Joe D’Angelo, has been ascendant, rising to a second place finish in the Catholic League Intersectional Division> The Cranes have made a statement by winning against strong divisional opponents.
“We have certainly had a good year and the boys have learned how to win some tough games, “ said Coach D’Angelo, referring to three single-point victories this season for the Cranes. “More importantly, they are having fun and learning the joys of teamwork.”
Coach D’Angelo spent 20 years as head coach of Country Day. He has come out of retirement to shape the current flight plan and upward trajectory of the Cranes.
Cranbrook has averaged 198 yards passing and 133 yards rushing per game this season. Led by Junior QB Tyler Santangelo, Sophomore RB Aaron Wiggins, and Senior WR Nate Lowmiller, the Cranes have one of the more potent offenses in Oakland County.
Defensively, Cranbrook has 21.5 sacks on the year. These stats, including the 56 tackles for losses indicate the great defensive line play by Junior DE Shannon Junior and Sophomore DE Chris Smith, and outstanding linebacker play by Junior LB Tristian Knoer and Junior LB Pat Foley.
Additionally the Cranes have 18 takeaways on the season, 15 of which are interceptions. Sophomore CB Marqis Stokes, LB Junior Daniel Russell, and SS Freshman Torrell Williams have stood tall as the Cranes have ruled the air in 2015.
Country Day has been a perennial football power house. Since the Yellowjackets went became non-aligned with a conference in 1985, they have only missed the state playoffs 7 times over the last 30 years. The 3-time state champions are led by Head Coach Dan MacLean, in his 18th year as head of the program.
MacLean sees his program moving in the right direction, as the Yellowjackets chase another state title this year. The top ranked program in Division 4 by the Associated Press, Country Day has only 1 loss this season, a disappointing 23-13 loss to University of Detroit Jesuit (6-4).
Head Coach MacLean was hired as an assistant coach by Coach Joe D’Angelo during his time at Country Day, and succeeded him as Head Coach after his departure. Many of Country Day’s current assistants were former players under both coaches.
The Yellowjackets have averaged 131 yards passing and 135 yards rushing per game this season. Led by Junior QB Steve Mann, Senior RB Larry Penson, and Junior WR Roy McCree have led an offense that has averaged 34 points a game.
The Country Day defense has 22 sacks on the year and 78 tackles for a loss. This underscores the dominant defensive line work by Senior DE Jeremiah Tyler and Senior DE Cole Bearden, and out standing linebacker play by Senior LB Brett Salamin and Senior LB Mike MacLean.
The Yellowjackets have 27 takeaways this year, and 14 of these are interceptions on the year. Junior SS Chris Bergin, Junior SS Nick Neibauer, and Senior DB Tommy Young have led Country Day in this defensive effort.
On paper, these two teams are well-matched, with very similar statistical profiles. Country Day has deeper state playoff experience, but some of that occurred under D’Angelo’s tenure at the helm. They both have great coaching staffs.
Country Day is heavily favored to win the Division 4 State Championship. The general expectation is that they will go all the way to Ford Field. Cranbrook has already achieved greater than most expected, and has nothing to lose with a great showing in this game.
Separated by a few miles along Lasher Rd, these two schools are regular rivals in almost all other sports. The notable exceptions have been football and basketball. On Saturday, being evenly matched, we will remove football from that list.
This great matchup will occur Saturday, November 7, 2015, at 1 p.m. The game will be played at Country Day’s home field located at 22305 W. 13 Mile Rd, Beverly Hills, MI 48025.
The winner advances to the Regional 4 final against the winner of Detroit Denby (6-4) and Milan High (8-2) next week.