Sexton coach Dan Boggan began piecing together the 2014 season before it began.
The group of seniors he had on his roster — including five who made this year’s Lansing State Journal Dream Team and earned all-state honors of some kind from the Associated Press — had to progress before they reached Ford Field in Detroit for this year’s state finals. They had to grow into an area juggernaut.
They also had to taste defeat on the doorstep of the state finals last year.
“That’s what makes this group so special. It’s tough to do what you did a year ago — go 12-1 and go undefeated in the CAAC Blue and accomplish a lot and then to say we’re going to do it again and do it better,” Boggan said. “To actually do that, that speaks volumes to the commitment of those young men and their maturity, and they really set out to make it happen.”
Boggan, this season’s Coach of the Year, has had some of them the past three seasons prior to this one. Lineman Shain Shannon and running back/linebacker Avonte’ Bell were on the varsity as freshmen.
That team went 7-4 and lost in a Division 4 district final. They slumped to 5-4 the next year and missed the playoffs.
“They were such a tough group of kids and such a hard-working group,” Boggan said. “We could have gotten into the playoffs. We lost a real close game to Monroe, 42-41, in the last seconds of that game.
“Then we lost another close one to East Lansing 20-16 where we made a 60-yard drive and dropped a pass in the corner of the end zone that would have put us ahead with less than a minute to go. …
“I knew then that we were going to be pretty special and those kids were pretty hungry.”
So back to work they went. Boggan said almost immediately after the Big Reds did not qualify via playoff points, they went into the weight room and began driving towards the 2013 season.
“More kids were following those group of sophomores and I could see then how much desire they had and how much passion they had,” Boggan said.
Youth became experience, and Sexton broke through that next year with 12 straight wins before falling to Marine City 12-7.
The Big Reds came back and won their first 13 games this season, claimed conference, district and regional titles again before falling 28-27 to Grand Rapids South Christian in the Division 4 state championship game at Ford Field.
“I know how special it was for our kids and our community and our school. I know the kids will definitely never forget it,” Boggan said. “Their maturity was a big part of why we made the run that we made the last two years.
“It was a great senior class and they worked their butts off to get where they were.”