Michigan high school boys lacrosse: Detroit Country Day convincing in Division 2 final

After settling for a best man role in the past two Division 2 boys lacrosse finals, Birmingham Detroit Country Day became the groom Saturday, earning its first state championship in 10 years with a convincing 18-7 victory over Ada Forest Hills Eastern.

Runner-up the past two years, the Yellowjackets (19-2) captured their fourth title in school history by ending a 10-year drought in the finals held at University of Michigan Lacrosse Stadium in Ann Arbor.

Sophomore Keaton Yearego and senior Oliver Aaron paced Country Day’s attack up front combining for 10 goals with six and four, respectively.

“I’m not used to smiling after the state championship game, I tell you what,” Aaron said. “Two straight defeats at the hands of FHC (Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central), so when we came back here, we were on a mission and we have a great group of seniors. We had to win it for them and the underclassmen as well.”

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The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Aaron will suspend playing lacrosse at least for one year. He plans to attend school in the fall and study finance at Northeastern University’s campus in London.

Detroit Country Day attack Will Thompson brings the state championship trophy to student section to celebrate 18-7 win over Forest Hills Eastern at MHSAA boys Division 2 final at U-M Lacrosse Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 8, 2024.
Detroit Country Day attack Will Thompson brings the state championship trophy to student section to celebrate 18-7 win over Forest Hills Eastern at MHSAA boys Division 2 final at U-M Lacrosse Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 8, 2024.

So going out with a victory in his final high school game proved to be special.

“It’s our tight-knit group, our glue,” he said. “We’ve been here before but I just thought this group was special from Day 1. When we started practicing in the fall, we were on a mission with this in mind.”

Forest Hills (16-5), which fell 16-7 to Country Day during the regular season, couldn’t overcome a 9-5 halftime deficit on Saturday, and was outscored 9-2 in the second half. The Hawks have five runner-up finishes but are still searching for that elusive state championship ring.

The underdog Hawks kept it close early.

It was 3-all after one period as Forest Hills Eastern got goals from Jackson Arnold, Will Morgan and Brayden Campell, with assists going to Morgan and Preston Hoexum.

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Aaron countered with a pair of goals for Country Day, while Rhys Kenney added the other — all unassisted.

When Hoexum scored from Arnold unassisted just 51 seconds into the second period, Country Day responded with five unanswered goals to take an 8-4 advantage.

Detroit Country Day attack Keaton Yearego celebrates a goal against Forest Hills Eastern during second half of MHSAA boys Division 2 final at U-M Lacrosse Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 8, 2024.
Detroit Country Day attack Keaton Yearego celebrates a goal against Forest Hills Eastern during second half of MHSAA boys Division 2 final at U-M Lacrosse Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 8, 2024.

Yearego scored three times with Kenney and Reeve Meloche getting the other two during the 5-0 run. Forest Hills Eastern stopped the drought on Morgan’s unassisted goal with 2:26 left, before Aaron got his third of the half with only 12.6 seconds off a feed from Micah Zacks to make 9-5 for the Yellowjackets. (Other assists for DCD went to Joe Norton, Andrew Gryzenia and Gavin Zeiter.)

“I loved the energy, the boys came right out of the gate ready to play,” second-year Forest Hills Eastern coach Tony Boggiano said. “We knew right away we just weren’t happy getting here for this moment. We actually came to compete for the championship ring. We gave it everything we got, especially in the first quarter. First half we kept it pretty close. We were down four at the half, just proud of the boys for all the season that we had. We’re 31-9 in two years.”

In the third period, Country Day extended its lead to 13-6 getting goals from Yearego, Will Thompson, Kenney (his third) and Preston Cook, who also had an assist. Campbell contributed a goal from Arnold for the Hawks.

Forest Hills Eastern midfield Conner Helminski runs against Detroit Country Day during second half of MHSAA boys Division 2 final at U-M Lacrosse Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 8, 2024.
Forest Hills Eastern midfield Conner Helminski runs against Detroit Country Day during second half of MHSAA boys Division 2 final at U-M Lacrosse Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 8, 2024.

“We had to fix some things tactically, but we said we’re going to play our game in the third quarter and we did,” sixth-year Country Day coach Chris Garland said. “Always in the third, always.”

The Yellowjackets then scored four straight to open the final period to go up 17-6 with Yearego getting two with Cook and Caden Daly tallying the others (assists went to Steele Kiriluk and Mason Gal).

Mark Fuehrer (from Meloche) had a goal with 4:50 left in the match for Eastern before Aaron capped the scoring for DCD with 3:40 to play.

Country Day outshot the Hawks, 49-22. DCD goalie Kellen Curby had five saves, and Eastern’s Camden Klaes finished with 15.

“We came up a little bit short, hats off to Country Day,” Boggiano said. “They’ve got a deep squad with a lot of talent. But for a team with only two guys going to play NCAA, and the rest are just going off to college, I’m extremely proud of them, especially overcoming adversity. We lost one of our best players, an All-American in my eyes in Noah Benedict.”

Benedict, a midfielder and faceoff specialist, tore his ACL just before the state playoffs.

Forest Hills Eastern had no answers for Yearego, who finished the season with 56 goals and 16 assists.

“Keaton played great,” Garland said. “It feels really great to see his brother (Parker) in the stands, who lost two years in a row. It was redemption for the family and the program. It feels good that he did that and he had a really good game.”

Detroit Country Day attack Keaton Yearego celebrates scoring a goal against Forest Hills Eastern during second half of MHSAA boys Division 2 final at U-M Lacrosse Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 8, 2024.
Detroit Country Day attack Keaton Yearego celebrates scoring a goal against Forest Hills Eastern during second half of MHSAA boys Division 2 final at U-M Lacrosse Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 8, 2024.

Parker Yearego played last season for Cleveland State and is currently in the transfer portal. Parker had some sage pregame advice for his younger brother.

“He told me a lot,” Keaton Yearego said. “He just told me to take it over. We were 0-2 until today and he’s my big brother. I have two other older brothers, Logan and Tanner, and they just got me ready my whole life. I love them and appreciate them with my whole heart."

Yearego said Country Day’s ride to the state championship was a total team effort.

“I thought we all did good, I’m very proud of the team,” the sophomore said. “We knew we were here to win it and that was our goal whole year, and we did it.

“It was just the confidence in me and the confidence in my team. ... I had to do my game and let them do their game. When one person does good, everyone does good. Almost all of our offensive players had a goal in this game.”

Meanwhile, it was the first state title for Garland after back-to-back runner-up finishes.

“Finally happy we did it, it feels good,” Garland said. “It’s the fact that they believe in each other. Every team goes through difficult parts of the season, right? It just happens, but they came together. We fought through the adversity, we lost some close games to competitive teams. We push each other. That was the difference.”

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: MHSAA boys lacrosse: Detroit Country Day wins D-2 final

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