'It's unreal': Dexter defies odds to become first-time playoff team

David Goricki
The Detroit News
The Dexter football team reacts during a watch show as they find out they'll play South Lyon in the Division 2 playoffs.

Dexter — The wait was well worth it for Dexter’s football players.

They needed to wait nearly 50 minutes before finding out they would be playing unbeaten and No. 19-ranked South Lyon in the Division 2 state playoffs during a "Selection Show" watch party with parents, friends and coaches at the Dexter Pub.

After all, Dexter (6-3) will be playing in the state playoffs for the first time in program history. Dozens of cellphones flashed pictures and a collective roar erupted from the crowd when Dexter’s name showed up on the big screen. Finally, they would be invited to the dance.

The odds were stacked against Dexter heading into this season. It ended a 42-game losing streak in Week 2 and then kept winning, even coming back from a 21-point deficit with seven minutes left to earn an incredible 48-42 victory over Ypsilanti Lincoln on Oct. 12 to punch its postseason ticket with its sixth win.

“We’ve kind of anticipated South Lyon. Honestly, we’ve been watching film on them all day,” Dexter coach Phil Jacobs said. “It will be a big challenge and we’re looking forward to it. What the heck do we have to lose?

“Some people had us going to Jackson first round. We already played them (29-19 loss on Sept. 14) and it went right down to the final minute. I think this will come right to the last minute, too. The kids are excited. We went in as a 5-4 team one year, 2012, when I was at Adrian and we beat Chelsea on its home field to win the district title so anything can happen.”

South Lyon won the Lakes Valley championship after finishing 1-8 last season. It did earn playoff spots in 2011, ’13, ’14 and ’16.

Jacobs, 47, took over at Dexter following the 2016 season, the program's third straight 0-9 season. Dexter again went 0-9 in 2017, then lost its opener to Chelsea before ending the slide in Week 2 with a 36-22 win over Ypsilanti.

“This is unreal, really fun since I’ve never been a part of 'Selection Sunday' and to experience this with my teammates around just makes it 10 times more fun,” said Dexter captain and receiver Andy Durand, who was one of 22 kids as seventh graders who made a promise they would be making the playoffs their senior year.

“We worked so hard for this and I’m so happy that it’s finally paid off for us.”

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The party would have never taken place if not for the dramatic comeback win over Lincoln. Lincoln scored on a 91-yard run to build a 42-21 lead with 7:58 left before Dexter scored 27 points the rest of the way to pull out the win, including TD passes of 16, 17 and eight yards from 6-foot-3, 180-pound sophomore quarterback Colin Parachek to Antwan Ficklen.

“The losing stretch was such a bummer so it’s a really cool experience to see everybody in one room together to watch this show,” Parachek said. “It’s crazy, just to think that two months ago we were a team that hadn’t won a game in four years and now we’re here, watching who we’ll be playing in the state playoffs.”

And, on winning that game against Lincoln.

“That game was crazy, so proud of the team for not giving up,” Parachek said. “It’s definitely going to be one of the biggest games in our athletic careers. We worked really hard, fought back and didn’t fold under pressure. It was such a great feeling knowing that we were going to play in the state playoffs after we pulled out that win.

“My offensive line is great, gives me time to find the open receivers. Antwan Ficklen and Andy Durand are great slot receivers. I just get them the ball and let them do what they do in open field.”

Jacobs is impressed with Parachek and all of his players.

“He’s had quite a season — broken every passing record that there is right now and he’s just a sophomore,” Jacobs said. “He’s really grown as the year has gone on and we’ve put more and more on his plate. He makes some of the calls at the line of scrimmage, done great with it. We run the spread and there’s a lot for him to learn. When we signal plays in, he can check the line’s blocking scheme. He knows everybody’s routes. He’s just a good student of the game.

“In the Lincoln game, we rolled him out of the pocket and of course it was windy and rainy, you know everything that’s stacked against a passing team. He just keeps plays alive, keeps his eyes downfield and found open receivers. That’s how we came back.”

Dexter earned its first ever state playoff appearance, but a number of other schools also ended long slides.

Jenison (6-3) will be making its first postseason appearance since 2003, playing at Traverse City Central (7-2) in a Division 2 game. And, it has faced quality opponents, playing No. 7 Muskegon Mona Shores tight before falling 49-42 in the final minutes.

Jenison is led by three-sport standout Kyle Nott.

“It’s been a long time for Jenison so we’re certainly excited,” said first-year head coach Rob Zeitman, who was an offensive line coach at Kent State the previous two years. “The OK Black has some of the best teams in the state — the headliners are Muskegon and Mona Shores, of course. We’re a resilient bunch, a typical high school football team with a great quarterback in Kyle Nott who makes us who we are.

“He (Nott) is a three-year starter for us, a three-sport athlete, an all-state catcher who will play that sport at Central Michigan. He deflects the praise which is another unbelievable attribute of a leader.”

Nott has rushed for 1,300 yards and 23 TDs while throwing for 700 yards and six TDs.

Dearborn Heights Crestwood (8-1) will be playing in the postseason for the first time since 2005, playing host to Temperance Bedford (5-4) in Division 2.

And Detroit Community (8-1) will be playing in the postseason for the first time in its eight-year history, hosting Allen Park Cabrini in Division 7.