Beverly Hills – Detroit Country Day’s lone losing season in the past 15 years in 2017 is a distant memory, as the program is back as a state championship contender.
Country Day longtime coach Dan MacLean is thrilled to see the program’s numbers back up and the players are motivated to make a long postseason run after getting eliminated by Farmington Hills Harrison, 13-10, in a Division 4 district final last year.
Country Day is off to a 5-0 start, including an impressive 36-0 win over Detroit Loyola last weekend.
Country Day’s last state championship came 20 years ago under the guidance of MacLean, but it has made several appearances in the state title game at Ford Field since, including a 10-7 loss to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the Division 4 final in 2016.
“We had about 24 or 25 (players) last year and we’re up to 32 this year so it works out well,” said MacLean. “We have pretty good depth. We had five sophomores start for us last year that are now juniors. They did a nice job for us last year and are now really putting it all together.”
That junior class is talented, led by three linemen in 6-foot-7, 265-pound tackle Caleb Tiernan; 6-1, 260-pound William Leggon; and 6-1, 200-pound Nick Wachol.
Safety/receiver Danny MacLean – Dan’s son – and running back Jacob Yarberry are also among Country Day’s top players.
Tiernan, Leggon and Wachol are protecting quarterbacks in starter Ahlon Mitchell and 6-3, 205-pound sophomore Brandon Mann, while opening holes for running backs Owen Bergin, Anthony Ammori and Chris Rea. Bergin, Ammori, Rea and Mitchell are team captains.
Marcus Sheppard, a three-star receiver/cornerback, is a Bowling Green commit. Tiernan has offers from Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa State.
“I’ve known Ahlon (Mitchell) since the eighth grade, so we have good chemistry, thrown the ball a lot to each other,” said Sheppard. “Brando (Mann) just got up (to varsity) this year, he hit me for a 40-yard touchdown against Mumford.
“I think we can get to the state championship game. It would be great to play at Ford Field. We were struggling before last year, then felt we should have made it to Ford Field last year, but had a tough loss to Harrison. We’re trying to push even harder this year. We have a lot of starters coming back, so they know how it felt to lose in the playoffs, so we’re not going to let it happen this year.”
Tiernan feels much more confident in his second year as a starter.
“We have three returning offensive linemen, so we have to teach all the new sophomores on how to do it, so it’s harder with teaching, but playing-wise it’s gotten easier,” Tiernan said. “I’m more confident because I’ve known the plays coming in, where that wasn’t the case last year since I was coming off the JV team.
“I feel we can be really good if we can get the offense clicking, get the running game going.”
Leggon, who is getting interest from Michigan State and Boston College, agrees, saying: “Our offensive line is working well together, and with the running backs we have, we just grind hard. Our quarterbacks are playing well, Ahlon is doing well in his second year as a starter.”
Tiernan has already made a visit to Michigan and plans to go to the USC-Notre Dame game in South Bend on Oct. 12 and to Ohio State later in the month.
When asked if he was interested in Michigan, Tiernan replied: “I have had family who has gone there, they’re all engineers and doing well, so it would be nice to go where some of my family has gone.”
Danny MacLean has been on the sidelines watching great Country Day teams in the past, including a number of players who went on to NFL careers, such as running back Jonas Gray (Notre Dame) and linebacker Kenny Demens (Michigan).
“I’ve been around Country Day football for a long time, was always the ball boy, water boy, grew up with Country Day football and it’s something that will live with me forever,” MacLean said. “I kind of figured out, being around it, that nothing’s given, you have to earn it and through hard work you can do that.
“Our goal is to go out and work hard every day. We just want to be the best we can be.”