Published October 2, 2013
Wilkins praises his 2013 squad as most complete he’s coached at Madison
By Mike Moore firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Mike on Twitter.
MADISON HEIGHTS — He’s coached standouts before, the multi-dimensional players other teams would have to game-plan around.
He’s had the elite talent before, collections of guys that could, together, take over a game.
But in his six years with the Madison football program, Drake Wilkins said he’s never had a team like he does now.
“Probably the best team, and I stress the word ‘team,’ that I’ve had since I got here,” Wilkins said last week. “I’ve had teams that were more talented, but those were superstars that did their own thing. This is a group that has a lot of role players doing the job they have to do.”
Success has been a mainstay for the Eagles since Wilkins arrived.
The team has made the playoffs every season under Wilkins and has three Macomb Area Conference division titles. The current team was off to a 4-0 start heading into a Sept. 27 game against Sterling Heights High, played after press time.
But, as Wilkins was quick to admit, the success this season seems just a bit different.
“It all starts with the attitude, the unselfish play and the support these guys have for one another,” he explained. “It’s a totally different atmosphere.”
During a Sept. 13 game against Warren Woods Tower, the Eagles trailed 14-0 at the halftime break and had very little going their way.
“I knew the only way we had a chance was totally changing our approach,” Wilkins said. “So I went to our starting running back (Emanuel Harris-Jones) and told him I needed him at fullback. I went to the receivers and told them we had to go double tight and if they didn’t want to block to just stay on the sideline because we weren’t going to pass anymore. None of that was a big deal to anyone. They just wanted to win.”
Madison outscored Tower 29-8 in the second half and won 29-22.
“I think it all started before the season, when we went up north as a team,” senior Kyle Baldwin said during a Sept. 25 practice.
Madison spent about a week at Camp Pinewood in Twin Lake doing team-building activities and challenges.
“We all got to know each other. It’s like we had to work for one another up there, and it was just us. No electronic devises. Sleeping in the cabins. It was tough, but it did a lot for us.”
How quickly did the team notice the payoff?
“Second day of practice,” Baldwin boasted. “You could just see it.”
The Eagles are 3-0 in MAC Silver play with two games remaining in the division, an Oct. 11 game against East Detroit (1-3) and an Oct. 18 game against Lamphere (0-4).
As the favorite to win the second straight league title, a simple question begs to be asked.
With the talent the Eagles do have, and the newfound attitude Wilkins is stressing, just how good can they be?
“Scary, scary good,” Wilkins said. “We have to avoid the serious injury, and we have to keep doing what we’re doing. But if we’re able to, we are going to go plenty deep in the playoffs.”
“States,” Baldwin said with a smile about reaching the championship game. “That’s what we believe. This is a group that wants it. We have the talent and the attitude. It’s on us to prove it, now.”