The Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Cranes have reached post-season play for the 2016 prep football season, chalking up a number of firsts during their fall campaign. This rising program continues to break new ground under the leadership of Head Coach Joe D’Angelo.
Establishing a winning tradition is not easy, but the Cranes have taken major steps to becoming a team that has a bright future. This season is evidence that there is a new era of football at Cranbrook.
Cranbrook joined the Catholic League in 2010, leaving behind a rich history of competitiveness in the Metro Conference. Cranbrook wanted to establish new traditions, in a new realm.
But the Catholic League proved formidable. Cranbrook Football did not adapt well at first, not winning more than three games a year from 2010-2014. None of these wins were against Catholic League opponents.
“The first year was rough, we worked hard to just to field a team,” said Cranes Head Coach Joe D’Angelo, who took over the program in 2013. “But we wanted to change the culture, so we began to add structure to build a program.”
In 2014, evidence began to emerge that things were headed in the right direction.
Having gone 2-9 in 2013, Cranbrook surprised many observers by going 6-4 that year. Along the way, they defeated Allen Park Cabrini 14-0 for their first ever CHSL win, and followed it up with a 42-9 win over Madison Heights Bishop Foley to underscore the growth of the Cranes.
That year also saw another milestone-Cranbrook qualified for the MSHAA State Playoffs for the first time since 2005. Although the team exited with a first round loss, the season was a season of hope for the resurgent Cranes.
If 2014 was a season of hope, 2015 proved to be a season of success.
Starting with a 7-0 record and finishing 9-2 on the season, the Cranes were ranked in Division 4 by the AP and won their first playoff game since 2003. The only loses were to Division 7 finalist Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (WOLL) and to Division 4 semi-finalist Detroit Country Day.
“The program took a great step forward, learning how to win close games,” said D’Angelo “We won three games by one point that year. That happens when championship level play begins to reside with a team.”
2016 Cranes: Flying Higher
This year’s team has its own unique achievements.
En route to a third consecutive MHSAA playoff berth, the Cranes swept the Intersectional I division of the CHSL, a first for the rising program.
A second accomplishment was defeating perennial powerhouse WOLL 36-21 in regular season play, another first for the Cranes.
“This group is special, with many veterans mixing in with a good corps of rising players,” said D’Angelo. “There is a good line of succession forming within the team ranks.”
Cranbrook seniors QB Tyler Santangelo, RB Jalen Allen, and LB Tristan Knoer all have held leadership positions, serving as captains to this year’s team. With a strong senior supporting cast of WR Dan Russell Jr., LB Pat Foley, DE Garrett Faulkner, DL Ian Kovach, Cranbrook has a talented senior class that has seen the program rise.
DL Nick Siems, LB AJ Rodriguez, WR Thomas Hines, and DL Daniel Levin have also contributed greatly. Student Coach senior Nick Davis Jr. brought years of football experience to his role.
Allen, Santangelo, and Russell have great chances of playing football at the next level as they enter their collegiate years.
The junior class has been the wind beneath the Cranes wings this season. RB Aaron Wiggins has been a phenomenal offensive weapon, with QB Trevor McConnell showing good promise filling in for Santangelo. K Pierson Cook leads Oakland County in FG’s, and DE Chris Smith is a dominant defensive player.
DL Adam Samet, DL Nick Lauer, OL Tim Hauxwell, and OL Hani Abdelfatah make great contributions in the trenches. DB Andrew Mertz and DB Marquis Stokes provide secondary help.
The Cranes underclassmen have significant roles, with WR Torrell Williams and WR Kobi Russell playing in the receiving corps. DL Danny Files is a strong presence on the line, with QB Chris Williams serving as willing QB backup.
Freshman DB Jack Fairman has provided great secondary help, and will be a 4 year contributor to the Cranes.
Losing only to AP ranked Harper Woods Chandler Park and Detroit Loyola, Cranbrook has earned the respect on the field. There is a new feeling about the program.
“We hope get better, and reach higher heights as a team,” said D’Angelo.
First Prep Bowl Appearance
The Cranes earned a berth to the Catholic League Prep Bowl, the first non-Catholic team to do so since the CHSL adopted new rules this year.
The Cranes will face WOLL again for the CD Championship at Ford Field on Saturday.
In addition to playing for the championship, the Cranes will have a few more honors that will be given out at the game.
Several Cranbrook varsity players will be honored for academic and athletic excellence at the game. The honors of All-Catholic, All-League, and All-Academic will be distributed.
Another special recognition will be bestowed to the Cranbrook Junior Varsity. Winning their division, they will be honored for their first place finish.
“This is a significant event, with Cranbrook just reestablishing a JV program this year. This bodes well for the future of Cranbrook Football”, said D’Angelo. “I am proud of our JV coaching staff, our JV players, and their families for their efforts to establishing a successful JV program.”
Goodfellows to be honored
There will be one last honor bestowed on Saturday.
2016 is the 50th anniversary of one of the legendary teams in Catholic League history. In 1966, St. Ambrose Catholic School was the winner of the Goodfellows game. The Goodfellow game served as the Detroit City Championship, pairing the Catholic League Champion against the Detroit Public School Champions.
St. Ambrose defeated Denby High that year 33-19, and Cranes head Coach Joe D’Angelo was player on that team.
He and his teammates will be honored at the Prep Bowl on Saturday.
“This is a great honor for me, and for my former teammates”, said Coach D’Angelo. “It is all the more special as Cranbrook will be there. I have told our team that these moments in high school are full of memories that will last a life time.”
“The boys will get to look back into my high school days, and see that I’ve told them the truth”, said Coach D’Angelo.
Cranbrook will face WOLL on Saturday, October 22, 2016 at Ford Field in Downtown Detroit. Kickoff will be at 4:00 p.m.