Ten years ago, Macomb Dakota put itself on the Michigan high school football map. As the Cougars won the 2006 Division 1 state title, current quarterback Brett Droski sat in the Ford Field stands.
“I remember everything about that game,’’ he said today. Ex-Cougar “Kyle DeMaster was my hero.’’
The 2016 version of Dakota football hit the field for the first day of practice today without Mike Giannone, the coach of the back-to-back champions in 2006 and 2007. He has moved on to Warren De La Salle, and longtime assistant Greg Baur, who was on the 2006 staff, has taken over at Dakota.
“That group was special,’’ Baur said today. “And then the 2007 group after that. I can’t believe it has been 10 years. It’s crazy. We were just talking about that with the kids the other day. It’s about time we get back to that area.’’
He believes that this group is capable of winning a fifth straight Macomb Area Conference Red Division title and be a threat to win it all.
Nothing has changed, stylistically. Dakota will be big, it will be strong across the offensive line, and Baur expects one of the most explosive offenses in school history, with Droski and running back Kiser Carleton controlling the offense.
“The transition has been seamless,’’ Baur said. “It couldn’t have been better. I’ve been here 11 years, so this is not new to me, the school isn’t new to me, the kids aren’t new to me. Nothing is new except all the new paperwork.
“The good thing is we have every skilled position player back on offense and two of our linemen. We have eight back on offense and we haven’t had that in a long time. They are very, very skilled guys. That’s our strength, for sure. Defensively, we return six and we have a nice core group there. I love this team. I love exactly where we are right now.’’
Dakota’s playoff run was ruined a year ago when Carleton hurt a knee during the playoffs. One of the toughest backs in the state, his presence was missed.
“I’m 100% now,’’ he said. “I think I started feeling back to where I was at in June. It was hard, more mentally than physically, but we’re back. I feel good right now and ready to go.
“Our offense is very explosive. We have a lot of good players; Brett Droski, Jalen Hall. Brett is good. We’re looking forward to getting our class up there on the scoreboard. Making every opportunity count.’’
Small in stature, Carleton has become more of a vocal leader.
“A little, but I try to stay quiet and lead by example,’’ he said. “But seniors always have to step up and be vocal with the younger guys.’’
Added Baur: “Kiser is just special. It helps when your best player is your hardest worker. Brett and Kiser are both hard workers.”
Droski, meanwhile, said there’s little difference between Giannone and Baur.
“Coach Baur is always into it,’’ he said. “He’s not necessarily yelling, but he’s there for everything. He’s awesome. Everything is, ultimately, the same.’’
Which means the MAC Red should be on notice.