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 Warren De La Salle players celebrate with fellow students on Nov. 28, 2014, after beating Muskegon Mona Shores in the Division 2 state final. It was the football program’s first state title. The Pilots won a total of three football state championships during the last decade.

Warren De La Salle players celebrate with fellow students on Nov. 28, 2014, after beating Muskegon Mona Shores in the Division 2 state final. It was the football program’s first state title. The Pilots won a total of three football state championships during the last decade.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Programs of the decade

By: C & G Sports Staff | C&G Newspapers | Published December 19, 2019

 Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett baseball players celebrate on the mound as coach Dan Cimini heads toward his team on June 18, 2016, after the squad won the Division 3 state championship. The program won four state titles in the last decade, with two in D-3 and two in D-4.

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett baseball players celebrate on the mound as coach Dan Cimini heads toward his team on June 18, 2016, after the squad won the Division 3 state championship. The program won four state titles in the last decade, with two in D-3 and two in D-4.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Southfield Christian’s Ben Cookinham holds up three fingers to the crowd on March 22, 2014, after the program won its third straight Class D state championship. Southfield Christian won a total of five boys basketball titles in the last decade.

Southfield Christian’s Ben Cookinham holds up three fingers to the crowd on March 22, 2014, after the program won its third straight Class D state championship. Southfield Christian won a total of five boys basketball titles in the last decade.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

METRO DETROIT — Over the past decade, we’ve had the privilege to cover many amazing teams, players and the championships that came along with them.

But what were the top programs we witnessed from the more than 70 schools in our coverage area? The absolute best at what they did over the last 10 years?

We revisited every sport the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors and took a closer look at the programs that stood out.

To be included, the program had to have won at least two state championships since 2010. So without further ado, here are our Programs of the Decade.

 

Football
In terms of football, it didn’t get any better than Orchard Lake St. Mary’s over the past decade.

The Eaglets won four Division 3 state championships, with their titles coming in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

St. Mary’s also finished as the runner-up in 2010 and 2012.

George Porritt was the coach in all of those championship games.

“It is special because it’s not easy to do,” Porritt said. “You get a lot (of) schools out there trying to do the same thing. … So when you do put it together, it’s a very meaningful and lasting feeling for (those) that did that. It helps us and the school traditions moving forward.”

Although no other local program matched the Eaglets’ number of titles, a couple came close. Catholic High School League Central Division rivals Birmingham Brother Rice and Warren De La Salle won three D-2 state championships apiece.

Brother Rice won three consecutive titles from 2011 to 2013.

After the Warriors had their run, De La Salle followed that up with some success of its own, winning a championship in 2014, and then back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018.

 

Volleyball
Though there have been five total state championships from the coverage area, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep was the only program to accomplish the feat twice.

The Fighting Irish, led by coach Betty Wroubel, won Class B state championships in 2013 and 2017.

 

Boys soccer
Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day was the lone program from the coverage area to claim more than one state title, and the Yellowjackets did it across two divisions.

Country Day, under the direction of Bob Bukari, beat Hudsonville Unity Christian 2-1 to win the D-3 championship in 2011.

The Yellowjackets won again in 2018 under coach Steven Bossert. Country Day topped Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern 1-0 (4-2 in penalty kicks) in a thrilling D-2 final.

 

Girls cross country
In the first half of the decade, no team could outrun Birmingham Seaholm. The Maples won three D-1 state championships, coming in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart is the only program in the state to have won more titles in the last decade (four).

 

Girls golf
Birmingham Seaholm and Macomb Lutheran North ruled the links.

Seaholm won three straight D-2 state championships from 2013 to 2015. The Maples also finished as the runner-up in D-2 in 2011 and 2016. Leon Braisted III coached all of those teams and continued his winning ways this year after leading Bloomfield Hills Marian to the D-2 crown.

Lutheran North golf coach Lori Gill guided the program for more than 25 years. The end of her tenure proved the most fruitful.

The Mustangs fell just short of a D-4 state title in 2015, finishing second. The team would rebound to capture the D-4 crown in 2016 and then won the D-3 championship one year later.

 

Boys basketball
Outside of one close matchup in the 2014 Class D final, the Southfield Christian program hasn’t really been tested in its championship game appearances.

The Eagles beat Adrian Lenawee Christian 63-61 in the 2014 Class D final. In its other four title game trips, all wins, Southfield Christian’s average margin of victory was nearly 22 points per game.

Coach Clennie Brundidge is in his eighth season with the program. He served as head coach for the 2014 title win and is back as the head man this year. He said many factors — players putting an emphasis on defense, roster depth and a familiarity with big games — have played a role in the team’s dominance.

“We play a lot of Class A teams every year. We have Class A teams calling us for games,” Brundidge said. “They know we’re going to play hard and tough. We believe being the last team standing in late March is the ultimate goal.”

The Eagles captured three straight Class D titles from 2012 to 2014. The team also won the 2018 Class D title and the 2019 Division 4 crown.

Country Day added to its legacy this decade too.

The Yellowjackets won Class B state championships in 2010 and 2013. The wins gave the program its eighth and ninth state titles.

Country Day overall is 9-1 in state championship games.

 

Girls basketball
Country Day and Marian can look back on the decade fondly, as both programs won multiple state titles.

Longtime coach Mary Cicerone led the Mustangs to back-to-back Class A championships in 2014 and 2015.

For Country Day, the Yellowjackets sent legendary coach Frank Orlando out on top with three Class B state titles in his final five years of coaching, taking the crown in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

 

Baseball
On the diamond, Madison Heights Bishop Foley and Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett were the top local teams of the decade in terms of championships.

The Knights and the Ventures captured four state titles apiece. Liggett grabbed D-4 state titles in 2011 and 2013, then later captured the 2014 and 2016 titles in D-3. Foley’s four D-3 titles came in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2017.

“Every single baseball player that’s been in our program in the last 10 years has had a huge hand in this,” Liggett coach Dan Cimini said. “It’s a philosophy, it’s a culture that we’ve built, and it’s a mindset that the kids believe.”  

The other local team with multiple state titles was St. Mary’s. The Eaglets won two D-2 titles, with the first coming in 2015 and the second this past spring.

 

Softball
Warren Regina softball had a great reputation before the 2010s. All the team did this decade was add to it.

The Saddlelites, who won a Class A state title in 1989 and four straight Division 1 state championships from 2004 to 2007, moved back to the top of the D-1 heap.

Regina claimed state titles in 2015 and 2019.

Coach Diane Laffey has been at the helm for all of Regina’s state title wins. In total, she has more than 1,200 wins to her name.

“That might actually be plain luck,” said Laffey. “I really wasn’t aware of that until a reporter mentioned that to me last year. We try to prepare (the players) to be ready for all competition. I really do believe that the strength of (the Catholic High School League) prepares us for it as well.”

 

Girls soccer
There wasn’t even a close second to Marian. The Mustangs won five D-2 state titles, with those championships coming in 2010, 2012, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Marian also finished as the runner-up twice during the decade.

 

Boys golf
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood was the lone local program to win multiple state titles. The Cranes finished tops among D-2 teams in both 2012 and 2014.

 

Boys lacrosse
Perhaps the most dominant program of all in the last decade, Brother Rice won all but one state title in the last 10 years.

“It means a lot to be a part of a school and a program that has great dedication, works hard every day, gets it done on and off the field,” Warriors coach Ajay Chawla said. “The most important thing about Brother Rice lacrosse is our culture and the pillars we stress every day.”

Rob Ambrose led the Warriors to championships in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. From there, Chawla took over and won four in a row of his own in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

After falling 11-10 to Novi Detroit Catholic Central in 2018, Brother Rice bounced back in 2019 and beat Catholic Central 14-13.

“We’re always looking to get better,” Chawla said. “Just because we’ve won a number of championships in the past 15 to 20 years, that doesn’t mean much to the guys who are currently on the team or the coaches. We’re only as good as our last championship or our last season.”

Also locally and both in D-2, Cranbrook earned D-2 state championships in 2013 and 2015. Country Day was the last team standing in 2011 and 2014.

 

Girls lacrosse
Cranbrook, particularly during the last half of the decade, staked its claim as the best local program.

The Cranes won D-2 titles in 2017 and 2018. Cranbrook also finished as the runner-up in 2015 and 2016 before claiming the top prize.
 

Girls tennis
When it comes to D-3 over the last decade, it’s been either Country Day or Cranbrook.

The two programs won every title in the last 10 years, with each winning five.

In D-4, Bloomfield Hills Sacred Heart was dominant, taking six state championships.

In D-2, Seaholm and Marian were neck and neck, with the Maples grabbing four state titles and the Mustangs winning three. Seaholm also finished as the state runner-up three times.

D-1 was all about Grosse Pointe South. The Blue Devils picked up three titles.

 

Boys track and field
With back-to-back D-2 state championships in 2015 and 2016, St. Mary’s was the only local program to win more than one title over the past decade.

 

Girls track and field
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but a Country Day sports team accomplished great feats in the last decade.

The Yellowjackets won back-to-back D-2 state championships in 2011 and 2012 under coach David Wilson.

Country Day shared the title with Dearborn Divine Child in 2012.

Grosse Pointe South can look back on the past decade and be proud of what it has done. Under coach Stephen Zaranek, the Blue Devils won the D-1 state championship in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

 

Boys tennis
Much like on the girls side, the decade belonged to Country Day and Cranbrook. The programs combined for nine D-3 state titles.

Cranbrook claimed five and Country Day tallied four.

Over in D-1, Bloomfield Hills High won three state titles in the past decade. The Black Hawks were named champs in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Liggett finished on top of the D-4 world in 2016 and 2017.

 

Boys swimming and diving
Brother Rice and Cranbrook were the fastest in the water in their respective divisions.

The Warriors (D-1) and the Cranes (D-3) each won four consecutive titles from 2014 to 2017.

Seaholm wasn’t far behind. The Maples picked up three state titles in the decade (2011, 2014 and 2015), all in D-2.

 

Girls swimming and diving
Mercy dominated the girls swimming scene over the last decade, picking up a total of six state titles. The Marlins won five in D-1 and one in D-2.

Also in D-2, Seaholm picked up two state titles and had two runner-up finishes.

In D-3, Cranbrook grabbed three championships to go along with three runner-up finishes.

 

Girls skiing
Marian proved to be one of the very best in the state over the last 10 years.

The Mustangs won D-1 state championships in 2010 and 2011. The team then won a D-2 title in 2014.

 

Hockey
Brother Rice won three D-2 state titles, Cranbrook won three D-3 championships, and Country Day made it back-to-back D-3 state titles in 2018 and 2019.    

 

Competitive cheer
Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, Rochester High and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep combined for nine titles across two divisions.

In D-3, Beth Campbell led the Fighting Irish to five straight state championships from 2014 to 2018.

Stoney Creek and Rochester have both won two titles since 2010. The Falcons took home the gold in 2016 and 2017, while the Cougars finished on top in 2010 and 2019.

 

Gymnastics
Farmington United was the only local program to capture multiple state titles in the last decade.

United has won back-to-back state titles and will get the chance to make it three straight this year.

 

Boys bowling
The early part of the decade was great for Macomb Dakota.

The Cougars captured consecutive D-1 state titles in 2011 and 2012 — the program’s first two crowns. The team finished as the runner-up in D-1 to Catholic Central in 2010.