HOWELL — To top undefeated Forest Hills Central in the Division 2 boys lacrosse state final on Saturday, Detroit Country Day knew it needed to start quickly.
The Yellowjackets did just that with a 3-0 start, but the Rangers would show the resiliency needed of a championship squad, slowly grinding out Country Day to pick up an 11-8 victory and finish the season 21-0.
“That was the game plan. We wanted to get pressure on them from the beginning, and we did,” Country Day coach Chris Garland said. “A team like that you know is going to fight back, and they did. All the credit to FHC and their coaching staff. Our kids played with a lot of heart and should hold their heads high.”
These two met earlier in the season and FHC picked up an 18-10 win over Country Day (19-3) in some adverse late-March weather.
DCD came out looking to send a message that it wouldn’t be the same kind of game on Saturday. It opened the contest with three goals in the first 4:08 of play to take a lead on the unbeaten Rangers.
Sophomore Caiden Ramos got the Jackets on the board first and then senior Parker Yearego added his first two of the day.
“We knew that the team we played in March was going to be a completely different team than what we saw (Saturday),” Forest Hills Central coach Andy Shira said. “We figured they would press a little more. The first time we played it was 35 degrees and sleeting. They’ve got one of the best defenses in the state and we knew they would want to redeem themselves. We knew it was going to be a battle.”
The Rangers started to get back in the game by winning at the faceoff X. That kept DCD on the defensive side of the field for most of the remainder of the first, which allowed Forest Hills Central to get back into the game with a pair of goals before the period ended.
— Drew Ellis (@ellisdrew) June 11, 2022
In the second, it was more back-and-forth. Neither team scored more than two consecutive goals. The Rangers would tie the game on two occasions before getting a 7-6 lead with 1:56 left in the half on Jonah McConnell’s third goal of the game.
“Once (FHC) settled down and took advantage of some things that we didn’t do very well, they turned it into a really good ball game,” Garland said.
In the second half, it would be FHC goalie Quinn Crandall that helped shut the door on the Yellowjackets.
After Caden Daley found the net midway through the third to make it 7-7, DCD would get outscored 4-1 over the final 18 minutes of play. Crandall game up with key saves while the Rangers were a man down to prevent the Yellowjackets from regaining the lead.
“Second half, we just didn’t execute offensively, but you also have to credit their defense and their goalie. He deserves a lot of credit for keeping them in the game. We had opportunities but we didn’t finish them,” Garland said. “He makes saves that other goalies don’t make. We put a lot of shots on him that others don’t make. If it’s another goalie, I think it’s a tie game in the fourth quarter.”
— Drew Ellis (@ellisdrew) June 11, 2022
Central scored a pair of goals 30 seconds apart late in the third to take a 9-7 lead into the fourth.
Country Day got it to 9-8 with 8:46 to play off a Talon Garn goal, but the Rangers answered seconds later to make it 10-8.
The Jackets wouldn’t score again, as the Rangers salted away the clock and eventually secured their fifth MHSAA Division 2 state title. It’s the second under Shira, but this one comes with an unbeaten record and an argument that it’s the top team in the state overall.
“Absolutely,” Shira said when asked if his team was the best overall in the state. “We had the No. 1 strength of schedule in the state of Michigan and to go undefeated with this group of guys in phenomenal.”
McConnell finished with nine saves in net for the Rangers while McConnell led the scoring effort with four goals. John Tomsheck added three assists in the win.
Yearego had three goals to lead Country Day, while Garn had two scores. Goalie Max Kunnath made 13 saves for DCD.
Saturday marked Country Day’s first state finals appearance since 2014. Garland is hopeful it will not be another eight years before the Jackets appear again.
“I hope not. I think we are working hard,” Garland said of his program. “I want to take some time to think about the things we didn’t do well, but that is on me. The kids put their hearts into this game. They had a great year, and I am really proud of them.”