OKEMOS – Shawn Grady felt he had one task this season: to not mess up.
The Okemos boys lacrosse coach sensed he would have his most talented group during his 13 years in charge. All he would have to do is keep them motivated.
And as his team breezed through the regular season and into the postseason, Grady found himself facing his biggest challenge.
“Our guys, they were so good this year that (it felt like) they weren’t challenged,” Grady said. “That was a concern for me. I asked myself ‘How do you keep them fired up?’ I was hoping they didn’t get complacent.”
Down the final stretch, Grady helped the Chiefs (18-3), the CAAC champions, find their second wind as he led them to their first Division 2 regional title and state championship appearance in school history.
In the state title game, after trailing 8-4 midway through the fourth quarter, Okemos rallied only to lose 10-9 to Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood. A game Grady often replays in his mind.
“I’ve only looked back on that a thousand times,” Grady, the LSJ boys lacrosse coach of the year, said. “I (think about) what I would do differently.
“It all moved so fast, and I think it moved pretty fast for our kids too. Early on, we might have been a little new to it. And in doing so, we weren’t doing things we usually do. Once they settled down, however, they were ready to go.”
In preparation for a historic season, Grady took his team to other parts of the state to play against top-tier talent. And after seeing his club perform well against tough competition, he had a feeling this would be the year Okemos got over the hump.
“It was a crazy game we had with Detroit Catholic Central — it was 20-19. That was one (where I knew),” Grady said. “We handled Brighton, a quality team, better than I thought we would. And with those kind of things, you go, ‘Maybe we have something here.’ Things were coming together.”