While the Lions squeaked by with a last-second win on Sunday, another Detroit football team that has been defying the odds all season is heading to the championships.
On Saturday, the Wayne State Warriors will face off against the Pittsburg State Gorillas of Kansas at the NCAA Division II National Championship game in Florence, Alabama. The Warriors, who are 12-3-0 this year, have never made it to the playoffs in the history of the team.
"This has been our goal from the very start, to win the championship," Wayne State head football coach Paul Winters told WXYZ. "What's been the most difficult is just convincing people in the beginning that we could win and that we will win. Once we started to win it's become easier."
"What's been the easiest is I have great kids," he added.
The Warriors went on the road for the playoffs, winning three games in a row. After beating last year's champs, Minnesota-Duluth, in the second round, they secured their place in the championship game with last week's semifinals win. Wayne State beat the Winston-Salem State Rams 21-14 with 17 seconds to spare.
The Warriors' season opened with tragedy when cornerback Cortez Smith, a junior, was fatally shot in May. Despite the devastating loss, the team went on to win its first six games. But after losing the final game of the regular season to the University of Findlay, the Warriors entered the playoffs as the lowest-seeded team.
Coach Winters took over the Warriors in the 2004 season, and the team has since improved steadily. Previously an assistant for the Akron University Zips, he is being sought after for their open head coach position. But according to the Plain Dealer, Winters won't be speaking to Akron until after this year's playoffs are over.
"We are focused on winning a national championship, and nothing else matters," Winters told the paper.
Tickets are now available for Saturday's Division II championship game in Alabama.