Warren De La Salle football players celebrate following the team’s 41-6 Nov. 24 win over Livonia Franklin in the Division 2 state championship. The win gave the Pilots their second state title and first since 2014. DLS hockey also raised a trophy, beating Calumet High 6-3 March 11 to win the D-3 state championship. It marked the first title in program history.

Warren De La Salle football players celebrate following the team’s 41-6 Nov. 24 win over Livonia Franklin in the Division 2 state championship. The win gave the Pilots their second state title and first since 2014. DLS hockey also raised a trophy, beating Calumet High 6-3 March 11 to win the D-3 state championship. It marked the first title in program history.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes


A look back at the year in sports

C&G Newspapers | Published December 28, 2017

 Madison Heights Bishop Foley’s baseball team runs out of the dugout after winning the Division 3 state championship last June.

Madison Heights Bishop Foley’s baseball team runs out of the dugout after winning the Division 3 state championship last June.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 With a 39-0 victory over Berkley High Oct. 13, Farmington Hills Harrison football coach John Herrington earned his 431st win, claiming the top spot in MHSAA coaching history.

With a 39-0 victory over Berkley High Oct. 13, Farmington Hills Harrison football coach John Herrington earned his 431st win, claiming the top spot in MHSAA coaching history.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

METRO DETROIT — We’d like to start by thanking you — the coaches, the players, the fans — for making this another great year.

We strive to be your No. 1 source for local sports, and we couldn’t do it without the help of all of you. 

From the news tips we get to the interviews done after the game, it all matters and goes into making our publications the best they can be. 

If you’re looking for sports outside of your coverage area, we encourage you to visit candgnews.com/sports, where you’ll find every story from our 19 publications.

If you can’t make it to the big games, follow us on Twitter @CandGSports. We’ll give you all the up-to-date action.

Thank you again, and here’s to a successful 2018.

Now here’s a look at some of the memories that stood out to our writers from the past year. 

— Christian Davis 

 

Farewell, Joe
The atmosphere, the energy, the pace, the anger and the excitement.

I’ve argued with many sports fans about the passion and the one-of-a-kind environment that NHL playoff hockey creates — notably at Joe Louis Arena.

But as the 2016-17 regular season wound down, it became apparent that a decade-long tradition I’ve held with members of my family of finding ourselves in the standing-room section in the first round of the postseason wasn’t going to be possible.

Yet there we stood, one final time, in an atmosphere so electric that goose bumps were unavoidable.

A raucous crowd, spotlights circling the ice and stands, and, of course, octopuses soaring to their final splatter on the frozen surface below.

This was a playoff feel in a regular-season finale.

But truthfully, for those who grew up with Hockeytown and the success of the Red Wings, this one final game was something more.

As I looked back on 2017 and tried to recount which sporting event stood out the most, the choice was a simple one.

Joe Louis Arena was nothing more than a building — an ugly one at that.

Located perfectly on the riverfront, there wasn’t a window to be had.

The seats were too small, the stairs too narrow, the concourse too thin, and please raise your hand if you ever once tried explaining to any woman in your life what it was like inside a men’s bathroom with whatever those things were hanging on the walls.

Yet, inside that brick and mortar was something more, memories of childhood maybe? Or was it so many heartbreaks leading up to that June night in 1997?

Whatever it was, it gripped the hockey fan in all of us.

And with that, I knew there was no way I’d miss the final game. 

Sure, I was lucky enough to be invited, but my brothers, my dad, others I’ve shared playoff traditions with — they were all there as well. It cost more than $200.

And it was worth every penny.

One final time to see those stands, hear that horn, smell those smells, taste that beer and feel those flimsy seats shake.

Just a building, sure, but it was so much more.

— Mike Moore

 

Everyone has a job
I was covering a girls basketball game in early December (I won’t say where), and following the game, while I was interviewing the winning coach, a parent walked up and confronted the coach for not playing their child.

The coach handled the situation very well and remained very calm. The incident made me think, though, about what high school sports are all about.

Sure, everyone — coaches, players and fans — wants to win. But at their core, high school sports above all else are supposed to be an educational experience. 

Players learn how do deal with success and adversity, how to work as a unit and about sportsmanship. Coaches advance their critical-thinking abilities, along with their patience. A parent’s job is to let players and coaches do theirs. 

Sure, parents can offer tips to their children anytime they’d like. There’s nothing better than seeing parents take a real interest in the things their children enjoy — except trying to coach during live-game action. There are countless times I’ve heard parents yell any number of things from the stands toward their children. I know their intentions are good and pure, but more often than not, that only serves to alienate the player from teammates, no matter how brief it may be. It happens in gyms all over the country.

I don’t say this to discourage any parent from rooting on their child. By all means, root! Just leave the coaching to the coaches.

— Jason Carmel Davis

 

Year to remember
In my “sophomore season” at C & G Newspapers, I continued to cover and develop relationships in Rochester, Troy, Macomb Township, Shelby Township and Utica.

I saw the highs and lows of the local prep teams, always trying to give fair and balanced coverage to each school in our coverage area. I wrote about several notable triumphs on the gridiron, including Troy High’s first playoff appearance since 2009; the most wins for Rochester Adams since that same year; a second straight district crown for Utica Eisenhower; a 17th straight postseason run for Macomb Dakota; and the first winning season and playoff victory in program history for Auburn Hills Oakland Christian.

I also made a point to do pieces on some of the sports that sometimes get overlooked by other publications, writing about numerous local hockey, bowling, swimming and cross country teams, even doing a story on Utica High’s clay target club.

Additionally, I penned many profiles on interesting people in the community. I highlighted the work of a longtime local umpire, played a round of golf with a 96-year-old Rochester Hills resident and spoke with a self-proclaimed “ballhawk” who has caught over 200 baseballs at Jimmy John’s Field.

I also showcased some local products who have gone on to great heights, like a Rochester Hills Stoney Creek graduate setting records as a jockey at Hazel Park Raceway; a Rochester Hills resident racing down on Belle Isle; and a Troy native raising the Stanley Cup. I also profiled a number of athletes now excelling at the next level at numerous colleges across the country.

This job allowed me to visit Mount Pleasant, Battle Creek and Little Caesars Arena for the first time, while also meeting many great people in my four papers’ communities. I look forward to what 2018 has in store.

— Timothy Pontzer

 

New adventures
Two of the most intriguing sports stories of 2017 were Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s baseball team and Madison Heights Madison’s football team.

The reason Liggett was so intriguing was because after winning four state championships in the last six years at the Division 3 and 4 levels, respectively, the Knights opted into D-1 this past postseason.

After having so much success in those other divisions, I was interested to find out how far Liggett could advance at the D-1 level.

Although Liggett had already beaten D1 opponents — including a victory against eventual state champion Warren De La Salle in 2016 — succeeding at that level in the postseason is a very different matter.

As it turned out, the Knights did well, advancing all the way to the semifinals, where they lost to the eventual D-1 state champion, Saline High.

Not too shabby for a program competing in its very first postseason at the D-1 level.

On the gridiron, what fascinated me about Madison was the addition of quarterback Austin Brown to the team’s 2017 roster.

After helping lead Novi Detroit Catholic Central to the Division 1 state championship game in 2016, Brown opted to transfer to Madison.

Prior to Brown’s arrival, the Eagles had already qualified for the postseason 12 consecutive years, but they hadn’t advanced past regionals since 2007.

Brown and some of his other talented teammates, along with coach James Rogers and his staff, helped Madison finish its season at 12-1. The only loss came in a D-7 semifinal against Saugatuck High.

Brown was selected as the Associated Press Division 7-8 High School Football Player of the Year. He also earned an AP first-team All-State selection.

According to his dad, Madison Athletic Director Jimmy Brown, he had 3,100 total yards (2,700 passing and 400 running) and 40 touchdowns (32 passing and eight running).

Brown has a family history with the school. His dad and older brother suited up for the Eagles, and he has a younger brother in the district.  

“I just wanted to come back home,” he told me in an interview last January. “I felt like a part of me was missing when I was out there. This is (going to) fill the hole by coming back.”

— Mark Vest