Year in review: Macomb County, Grosse Pointes
C & G SPORTS STAFF
It’s time to look back and share a few memories of 2012.
Our sport writers enjoyed the emotion and sense of achievement as our athletes hoisted state trophies, and were equally impressed as they watched coaches rebuild from the bottom up and take immense pride in a single victory.
Here’s a look at a few of the moments from our writers who cover the Macomb County and Grosse Pointe papers.
Another year of covering sports in Macomb County and the Grosse Pointes is in the books.
I was lucky enough to witness some fantastic feats in 2012. There were great games, record-breaking performances and trophies lifted.
But where there are highs, there are always lows. Where some teams won, others lost. When some advanced, others did not. And there were plenty of teary eyes and empty hands watching from across the way while other teams celebrated.
And that’s what’s great about high schools sports.
School may not technically be in session when the kids are on the fields, the court or any other arenas, but there are certainly lessons being learned.
Back in the basketball playoffs several months ago, I watched firsthand as a pair of local teams learned some lessons the tough way, coming up just shy of a state title.
I also made back-to-back trips to the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University. First it was to watch the girls basketball team from Grosse Pointe South falling in the waning seconds of its final, followed up by the boys hoops team from Macomb L’Anse Creuse North losing in the semifinals.
Neither team was expected to make it that far. Both squads were relatively young and came from programs that have never been highly regarded basketball powerhouses.
Like other teams before them, both squads accepted defeat graciously and respectfully. They watched, and they learned.
Nearly a year later, both squads are back in action.
And they’re ready to apply the lessons they’ve learned.
— Jon Malavolti
Volleyball champs provided life lessons
After my colleague, Jon Malavolti, helped take over some editorial duties, I was given the responsibility of covering Macomb Dakota’s volleyball team, which was a squad Jon had covered the past few years or so.
The first time I had the opportunity to cover the Cougars was when they faced Grosse Pointe South in a regional final. By that time, I had already done my research and learned that Dakota had not lost a single game in its previous four postseason matches.
Sure enough, I watched as Dakota also won each of its games against South, giving the Cougars a 3-0 victory and a second consecutive regional title.
Dakota went on to win three more matches in the postseason en route to the program’s first-ever state championship.
Oh, and by the way, the Cougars went the entire postseason without losing a game.
I think sports can provide great life lessons, and Dakota’s championship run is a good example of that.
In 2011, Dakota lost a tough quarterfinal match against Lake Orion. After winning the first two games of the best-of-five match, Lake Orion came back to win three in a row, ending the Cougars’ season sooner than they would have liked.
Despite the disappointment of that defeat, Dakota coach Tracie Ferguson said she believed going through that experience was a contributing factor in this season’s ultimate victory. She also credited preparation and a strong work ethic.
Winning a state title provided memories the girls associated with Dakota volleyball will likely never forget. Having the opportunity to cover them, and learning from their coach that they accomplished that feat while stressing the kind of traits will help them succeed in both sports and life, is something I am not likely to forget anytime soon, either.
— Mark Vest
The evolution of prep athletes
The transformation has likely been in place for years now, but its presence seemed to hit me during the past 12 months more so than any other time.
There’s been an evolution of the high school athlete going on, whereby bigger, faster and stronger isn’t just a cliché anymore.
Maybe it’s training regimens, or more specified practice techniques, or any host of reasons, but in the 10 years since my high school playing days ended, I don’t ever remember seeing the skillset at this level as I did in 2012.
It started last winter, especially covering the MIHL and following hockey players who were destined to one day shine at the collegiate or junior levels — some who already are.
Then came spring, where I got to document the methodical machine that was Bishop Foley baseball, a team that won 38 of 41 games, steamrolled to another state title, and just may be favored to do it again in 2013.
This doesn’t even include a Warren De La Salle team that got hot at the right time, took a sub-.500 record and nearly parleyed it to a baseball title, or a Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett squad that was 25-4 and ended one win from its own back-to-back crown.
The culmination, though, was undoubtedly this fall, as I covered Brother Rice’s, St. Mary’s and Country Day’s march to Ford Field for the football finals.
High school games took on a college feel, from the atmosphere in the stands to the action on the field.
Rice’s back-and-forth 35-28 victory against Muskegon High was one of the best games I’ve ever seen.
Until the following night.
I know I wasn’t alone in my awe for the battle St. Mary’s and Grand Rapids Christian engaged in. A “one for the ages” type of game that needed overtime to finally determine a winner.
And, to bring this all full circle and provide some anecdotal evidence as to how high school athletes have quite literally taken their game to the next level, was GRC receiver Drake Harris, who single-handedly took over that D-3 final, captivating everyone in attendance with his finals-record 243 receiving yards.
He caught everything thrown his way.
Literally, everything — especially on fourth down in the game’s final moments.
Like many leaving that night, I wondered if I’ll ever see another individual performance like that again.
Then I noticed Harris was only a junior.
The evolution continues.
— Mike Moore
Emotion is always a good thing
Over the past year — my first as a full-time sports reporter — I’ve seen various displays of emotion from the prep athletes I’ve covered.
Some are surprising at first, such as a wrestler so distraught at a runner-up finish in the state individual wrestling finals that he didn’t seem to feel any sense of accomplishment at all after he received his medal.
But after stepping back and thinking about it, and putting the instances in perspective, I have a much better understanding of why the athletes react the way they do in certain situations.
That wrestler, for example, wasn’t being — for the lack of a better term — a brat. I believe what was going through his mind at that moment — right after a tough loss in a state championship match — was all the blood, sweat, tears, hard work, missed parties/dates he put into making it to The Palace of Auburn Hills. He worked to be the best, and to him, second best wasn’t good enough.
On the other side of the emotion spectrum was the Birmingham Brother Rice football players who played in one of the most amazing games (regardless of level) I’ve ever seen on their way to a MHSAA Division 2 state title.
The Warriors beat Muskegon High 35-28 Nov. 3 at Ford Field in a game that featured a fleaflicker and a 91-yard punt return for scores. Once the clock showed zeroes across the board, you could see players jumping for joy, hear them screaming, see them hugging. Some just fell to the turf. All of those emotions pointed to one thing.
“We did it.”
You may think the kids are celebrating too much or taking a loss too hard. But put yourself in their shoes. How would you react if you put all you had into something and you fell short, or reached your goal?
Raw emotion. That’s what I’ll remember most about 2012.
— Jason Carmel Davis