BATTLE CREEK – Macomb Dakota’s Division 1 championship defense got off to a slow start Friday at M-66 Bowl.
So slow, that it looked like the Cougars might not survive the qualifying round.
But once they found their groove, the favorites began to fall.
Dakota, ranked No. 5 at the end of the regular season, qualified fifth of eight teams to move on to match play. The Cougars then topped No. 7 ranked Detroit Catholic Central and top-ranked Davison before beating unranked Canton in the championship match 1,305-1,105.
“It’s unbelievable. I never expected it. I can event describe it,” Dakota senior Nick Mikaelian said. “We started out bad, but we figured out where to play the lanes. Everybody just moved together, and it gave us the best chance.”
Mikaelian, also a member of the 2011 champion team, bowled a 206 in Friday’s Final. Teammates Mike Jachcinski and Justin Taylor teamed to roll a 216.
It was the third straight season Dakota advanced to the championship match. The Cougars beat Westland John Glenn last season, but finished runner-up to Detroit Catholic Central in 2010.
Division 2 at Century Lanes
WATERFORD – This was not supposed to be Mason’s season to win an MHSAA championship.
The Bulldogs traditionally are strong – and had made the Finals four years running heading into this winter.
But they had graduated five from last season’s semifinalist team. And they entered the postseason unranked in the state Division 2 poll.
Mason didn’t bowl like a team with four starters competing their first MHSAA Final. Despite qualifying just seventh for match play, the Bulldogs cruised through a Quarterfinal win, won their Semifinal by just 46 pins, and then squeaked past No. 8 Bay City John Glenn 1,216-1,213 in the championship match.
“Being a senior, this state title means a great deal to me,” Mason’s David Smithern said. “For four years, my team made it to the state finals and could never quite prove just how good of a team we were. This year was different. We came and threw every shot like the state title depended on it, and ended up victorious.”
Smithern rolled a 189 in the Final to lead Mason, with teammate Nick Carl adding a 185. Nathan Moszyk rolled a 182 for John Glenn, and Alex Ouillette had a 181.
The teams split the Baker games, and the final result remained in doubt until the end.
“I didn’t know we’d won until I saw the score sheet,” Mason coach Jim Valentine said.
“This was won with four new starting bowlers. We graduated five seniors last year. That group made states every year. This group won it all. I’m very proud of them.”
Division 3 at Airport Lanes
JACKSON – Fremont could feel its run at an MHSAA championship about to end early as it began the final game of qualifying Friday.
Then something clicked. And just in time.
Fremont rolled a 934 in the final block of qualifying to move from nearly missing the cut to fifth heading into match play. From there, the Packers seemed to get only stronger in winning their three matches by an average of 84 pins – including a 1,297-1,241 victory over Corunna in the Final.
"Today we didn't start off too well. But in the last game of the qualifiers we realized that we had to pick it up and bowl,” Fremont junior Ethan Brummel said. “After we bowled that final game, we were shocked that we were fifth seed. We had been eighth place and on the edge of the cut.
“The (Semifinal) round went well, and we were amazed that we beat the first seed team. After that, we really didn't care if we placed first or second, but we were ecstatic that we won. It was a great way to end the season."
Mike Margol bowled a 214 to lead Fremont, followed by Brummel’s 195. Austin Mowinski had a 205 for Corunna.
Fremont previously finished Division 2 runner-up in 2006.
Division 4 at Sunnybrook Lanes
STERLING HEIGHTS – Rogers City left no question which team was the best in Division 4 on Friday – and arguably the best at any MHSAA Final.
The Hurons finished first in qualifying by 119 pins. They won their Quarterfinal by 149 and eliminated No. 1-ranked Sandusky in the Semifinal with an 80-pin victory. Rogers City then finished the day off with a 1,462-1,351 win over Jonesville in the Final.
All five Rogers City bowlers rolled at least 182, led by Zach Hazel with a 258, Ken Wirgan with a 221 and Justin Hazel with a 200.
Jonesville also had three roll more than 200 in the Final: Reed Baker with a 231, Wyatt Tolbert with a 212 and Trevor Haas with a 206.