Photos by Larry Caruso

Davidson Middle School makes great advances in football, cheerleading

Dave Gorgon

One of the highlights in local youth sports during the COVID-19 global pandemic has been the success of the Davidson Middle School football team and sideline cheerleading.

Both programs grew dramatically in 2020. 

The seventh- and eighth-grade Titans expanded to include 31 players, went 5-1 and shared a football league championship. The cheerleaders team grew to 27 participants. Both units have high hopes for future growth.

“I cannot say enough about these boys and our cheerleaders,” said Shawn Sage, a football team coach and parent of one of the players and two of the cheerleaders. “I am beyond proud of what these kids are doing. The future is bright for Southgate football and cheer.”

Like some other sports, football had a slow start due to the coronavirus. But players and cheerleaders organized optional practices. They got to know each other better and the efforts led to a successful season.

“We had a really, really nice group of kids,” said Coach Tom Mulraney, a physical education and health teacher at the school who has been guiding football teams for three decades. “Many of them started coming in the summer when they didn’t even think they might have football for training and conditioning. When it was shut down for a short time, the kids were still coming just to train. When we got the go-ahead for football, it was just great for the kids.”

As part of the team’s daily COVID-19 protocol, each athlete was screened, temperatures were taken, masks were worn and coaches did the best they could to monitor social distancing, said Coach Sage, who is a member of the Southgate Board of Education.

When the Southgate Vikings youth program and the rest of the Downriver Junior Football League was cancelled due to COVID, the players were able to be part of their school team at Davidson, which grew to 31 boys. About half of the players had never competed in organized football. Coaches said the goals for the season were for the kids to learn and have fun.

The results of the workouts, practices and “positive attitude” – including a pep rally – were immediate. Davidson rolled to a 35-0 victory over Taylor Hoover in the season-opener. It was the first of three wins in a row with the next two coming over Grosse Ile, 27-23, and Lincoln Park, 18-0.

The Titans fell short against Allen Park, 26-16, but rebounded to defeat Monroe Catholic, 28-6, and finished the season with a 30-19 win over Taylor West.

The 5-1 mark was a dramatic turnaround from the 0-6 season a year earlier. A year before that, there was no team at Davidson due to a lack of enough players.

“We had a lot of talented kids,” Coach Mulraney said. “Tackle to tackle, I had probably my biggest line in a very long time. Add that in with the influx of skilled players and it worked out really nice.”

Jackson Sage, Sean King, Connor Ensign and Drayden Long were team captains.

Long and fellow eighth-graders Logan Thomasek, Joe Dietrich, Weston Hartley and Noah Siebert started both ways on the line. Carter Cochran and Johnathan Hankin were part of the mix, nicknamed “the hogs.”

Behind the line, quarterback Jackson Sage was a key to the potent offense attack. He ran for eight touchdowns and passed for seven more. He passed for more than 200 yards in the last game of the season.

Like Sage, tailback King had multiple 100-yard rushing games. He scored four touchdowns on the ground and caught two TD passes. Fullback Ensign ran for three touchdowns.

Tight end Connor Taurence may have been the team’s most sure-handed receiver. He had more than 150 receiving yards in the game vs. West and wound up with four receiving touchdowns on the season. Fellow tight end Mark Brandin also made his mark with eight extra-point kicks with each successful kick counting as two points.

Running backs Cooper Randall and Sam Cowan also scored touchdowns.

On defense, Isiah Daviston was a key to the man-to-man coverage, staying close to the opponents’ wide receivers along with Cowan, cornerback Zane Whitson and safety Ryan Lawyer. Linebackers Ensign, King and Hankin were other bright spots on defense.

Dedicated coaching, a positive parents group and support from the community are credited with making the season complete. Mulraney and Terry Hayden have coached together for 19 years. A former quarterback at Gabriel Richard and a former pro baseball player for the Boston Red Sox, Hayden is a math teacher at Davidson. They are joined along the sidelines by offensive coordinator Sage, Scott Ensign and Mark Taurence.

“What a good group of kids we had on and off the field,” Mulraney said. “They’re nice kids.”

At halftime of each game, the players respectfully watched the routines of the cheerleaders, led by coaches Hailey Wright and Brittia Pinkowski and eighth-grade captains Madison Leonardo, Adelynn Hales and Brooklyn Sage.

Wright, who has been a cheerleader since she was in the sixth grade, said the program is in a resurgence and the future looks bright. The 27-member squad includes 24 sixth- and seventh-graders. She expects a majority of the young athletes to take part in competitive cheering when it gets under way in 2021.

“It’s been outstanding,” said Wright, who attends Wayne State University and works at Beaumont Health Care. “For a lot of them, it was their first year cheering. I never saw a team come and work so hard. We got shut down for a little bit (due to COVID-19). We had optional practices. A majority of the girls showed up to condition and stay in shape.”

Wright urged girls at Davidson to come out for the team when registration is held.

“They should come out,” she said. “It’s a great program to be in. The girls develop friendships that last a lifetime. It creates a bond. They become interactive with each other and help each other become better people overall.”

Coach Sage agreed that the Davidson program is a plus for the Southgate community.

“We’re building character and want the kids to follow the right path,” he said. “We’re building something good. The athlete, parent and coaching involvement was exceptional and it is awesome to be part of such a great community. The future looks bright for Southgate.