Monthly Archives: September 2011

‘We Couldn’t Lose’: Royal Oak Celebrates End to 28-Game Losing Streak

Ravens’ defensive stand in the final minute of Thursday’s home game impresses new football coach Jeff Hill and seals the victory over St. Clair Shores Lake Shore.

It had been almost four years since Royal Oak High School had won a varsity football game. Thursday night, Royal Oak finally got to celebrate as the Ravens defeated St. Clair Shores Lake Shore, 21-20, to end a 28-game losing streak that began in October 2007.

Royal Oak lead 14-0 going into halftime, and a second half Lake Shore rally fell short, as the Ravens stopped the Shorians on a two-point conversion attempt with 25 seconds left to preserve the victory.

The win was the first for the school’s senior class, and after the final seconds ran off the clock, the students were allowed to run onto the field and celebrate with the team. For many of the Royal Oak players, like senior running back Nolan Jones, the victory was extra special.

“We proved those who had faith in us right,” Jones said. “I can’t even begin to describe to you how much love and how much passion I have for this team. This night will be etched in my brain for the rest of my life. I will never forget this.”

Jones rushed for 131 yards on 18 carries and senior quarterback Brandon Fredrikson ran for two touchdowns to lead the Ravens offensively. Senior linebacker Robert Gibson added an interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Jones said he had “four or five” dreams during the week in which he looked at the scoreboard and the Ravens had won the game. The team refused to give in, even when Lake Shore rallied to tie the game in the third quarter.

“It wasn’t that (Lake Shore) couldn’t win because they’re a good team and they’ll win again,” Jones said. “It’s just we couldn’t lose. We couldn’t lose this first game. This game set the tone.”

Royal Oak coach Jeff Hill said he was impressed with the play of his team’s seniors, which include Jones, Fredrikson, Gibson and defensive end David McPherson, the team captains, as well as key contributors such as Wesley Howell and Harrison Long.

“Those kids out there stepped up when they had to and that says a lot about them and what kind of team we have,” Hill said. “Who knows what’s going to happen from this point on, but they have a memory now that will last them the rest of their lives.”

For Hill, watching Lake Shore march down the field in the final seconds for a potential tying score was tough, but he was impressed with the way the defense responded on the decisive two-point attempt.

“I’ve been in so many games like this where it goes up and down, and it wears on you, but when you come out on the good side you get that big sigh of relief,” Hill said. “I’m glad our kids got to compete in a game like this so they can see the ups and downs and what it really means to fight through it. Any time you can have a goal-line stand to win a game, that’s pretty incredible and you can’t ask any more of the kids.”

The Ravens were playing their first game under Hill, a Royal Oak native and 1991 graduate of Royal Oak’s Dondero High School. Hill, who left Milford High School after last season to take the job with his hometown team, said the victory means a lot to himself and the Royal Oak community.

Hill has been receiving messages from Kimball High School and Dondero alumni going back “20-30 years” who have offered to help in any way they can. (Kimball and Dondero merged into a single Royal Oak High School in 2006.) One such person is Hill’s former coach at Dondero, John Duncan, who joined the team as an assistant coach.

“When (Duncan) found out I was coming back to the Royal Oak community, he wanted to be a part of that because that’s where he started his teaching and coaching career,” Hill said. “Guys like him want to see us be successful again. My family and I live here and everything we do is about trying to build this program and get this where it is. We take a lot of pride in our school district.”

Royal Oak will try to build on its 1-0 start in its next game on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. home against Troy.


Royal Oak Ravens Win First Game in 3 Seasons

Fans rush the field after thrilling end to game in which ROHS beats St. Clair Shores Lake Shore, 21-20.

Students and other fans spilled out onto the field Thursday night as the Ravens beat St. Clair Shores Lake Shore, 21-20.

“This night will be etched in my mind for the rest of my life,” Royal Oak senior running back Nolan Jones said after the game. “I will never forget this.”

Lake Shore gave Royal Oak a scare when it scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter and went for the 2-point conversion for the win. But the effort failed with 25 second left, giving the Ravens – and the wider Royal Oak community – a huge victory.

Fans reacted on Royal Oak Patch’s Facebook page quickly:

The Royal Oak High School football program had not won a single game since 2007. The Ravens have had three straight 0-9 seasons. Only four times in those 27 games has their opponent’s margin of victory been fewer than 20 points.

Jeff Hill was named Royal Oak’s new head coach back in January. The former Royal Oak Dondero High School graduate took over the team after coaching Milford to a 15-12 record in three seasons.

Stay tuned to Royal Oak Patch for updates, reaction and photos.

Ravens Hope New Football Coach Brings Success on Field, in Community

Royal Oak High School’s new leader works to end team’s three-year winless drought as it preps for first game of the season Thursday.

After three consecutive winless seasons, the Royal Oak High School varsity football team is eager to turn around its fortunes – and the community is ready to rally around them.

New head coach Jeff Hill, a Royal Oak native and Dondero High School graduate, was hired in January to replace Dave Potter. Hill faces the task of ending the Ravens’ losing streak that dates back to 2007. Hill was 15-13 in three years as the head coach at Milford High School, including a playoff appearance in 2008.

Hill said the team is focused on getting a fresh start this year.

“We can’t control what happened in the past, and we tell the kids that,” Hill said. “All we can do is work hard every day, make our investment and eventually we’ll get to the point where we want to be.”

Regaining school, community support

A quick end to the losing streak would serve to rebuild passion for a program that has seen interest from students and the community wane in recent years as the team struggled.

“I hope this year’s season really gives us the chance to cheer,” said ROHS senior Veronica Cook, captain of the varsity cheerleading team. “I know our school will get extremely excited if we even win a single game this year.”

Cook and the other ROHS seniors are part of a class that has never seen their team win a game, but she said the changes to the program have helped build anticipation for the team’s first win.

“Our first game last year, we scored the first touchdown, and everyone freaked out because we were winning,” Cook said. “I’m thinking the reaction will kind of be like that, but more.”

A win would hopefully create more interest in the team from both students and the community, which have treated games as more of a social gathering in the past, ROHS graduate and former cheerleading captain Haley McFarland said.

“The students will definitely be more supportive of their team and participate more in getting the team pumped before a big game,” McFarland said. “The stands could get a bigger turnout this year from not only students, but interested citizens of Royal Oak who enjoy watching football.”

Rebuilding the Ravens

After taking over as head coach, Hill set out to recruit more players to the team and to get his team to become stronger and faster in the offseason. Hill said progress has been made in both areas.

“We had a good turnout in the weight room from January through the summer months, and we had some kids get a lot stronger,” Hill said. “Our next goal is to become fundamentally sound football players, which means that we have consistency in how we practice, how we step on the field and give effort and we’re getting there. It’s a process, and it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Part of the process has been the introduction of a new offensive and defensive system.

“We are running a Spread Wing-T offense where we’re trying to use multiple backs and create a team atmosphere where we’re running the ball and getting as many kids involved in the offense (as possible),” Hill said. “Defensively, we’re going to be a 4-4 defense where we’re going to bring pressure, be aggressive and force the offenses out of their comfort zone.”

Several of Hill’s players said the team has been quick to learn the system.

“We’re adapting pretty well I think,” senior linebacker/tailback Robert Gibson said. “Learning any new system can be difficult. It’s a challenge, but I think if you work hard, you can do it.”

The Ravens’ coaches and players are hoping that all of their hard work during the offseason will lead to a quick end to the team’s losing streak.

“(Coach Hill) is really pushing us hard to be great players,” Gibson said. “I think all the guys out here and the coaches really want it. We really try hard, we come out every day and we’re really planning to (break the streak.)”

One thing that could work in the Ravens’ favor is a schedule that begins with three home games. The season opens with Thursday’s rematch with St. Clair Shores Lake Shore, which defeated Royal Oak 37-7 last season. The Ravens will follow up that with home games against Oakland Activities Association (OAA) Red Division foes Troy and West Bloomfield.

“I think with the three home games, if we win those games we can show people we’re back,” senior defensive end/tight end David McPherson said. “We’re a different team than we were the past couple years.”

Hill said the team is moving in the right direction, but it will face challenges from a difficult OAA Red lineup that includes teams such as  Clarkston, Rochester and the reigning state champion, Lake Orion.

“Everybody wants to win and everybody wants to win in Week 1, but our whole process is getting better and paying attention to details,” Hill said. “We all want it, but we have to earn it through these two-a-days. I think right now we have a good foundation, and we just have to keep progressing and we’ll get it before too long.”

The Royal Oak High School Ravens face St. Clair Shores Lake Shore at Royal Oak on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Royal Oak High School Soccer Gets a Fresh Start

A new coach and a revamped roster bring optimism for the coming season.

For this year’s Royal Oak High School varsity boys soccer team, a new year means a new start.

After a disappointing 2-13-4 season last year, the Ravens are turning to a new coach and several new players to help turn the program around.

The Ravens’ new coach is Anna Lukezich, hired by Athletic Director Brian Gordon to replace Jason Windsor, who resigned last fall.

Lukezich, who teaches graphic design at the high school, has coached soccer at other levels and served as a player/coach while at Alma College.

Gordon said Lukezich was “by far” the most qualified person who applied for the job.

“She has an amazing amount of experience at a lot of different levels of soccer,” Gordon said. “She played college soccer herself, and she’s a teacher in our building, so we’re pretty excited to have her aboard as one of our coaches.”

For the team to improve upon last year’s mark, Lukezich said it must leave last year behind and focus on the season ahead.

“It’s a brand-new team with lots of new players and a new attitude and philosophy,” Lukezich said. “I think it’s more building a program this year and really changing things right off the bat.”

Focus on teamwork

Lukezich said she hopes to focus on increasing teamwork and camaraderie among her players.

“This year, it’s just a new Royal Oak, new attitude and more of a family atmosphere,” Lukezich said. “The guys have to get along and really build a team atmosphere and a program.”

Lukezich held conditioning sessions and tryouts during the summer to help shape the team’s roster for the upcoming season.

Eric White, a senior and one of the team’s captains, said he and his teammates have worked hard during the offseason, and he expects the team to improve this year.

“The seniors know what it was like going through (last season), where we worked hard, but we didn’t have much success,” White said. “It’s been a lot of hard work (this year), and I definitely think we’re getting somewhere.”

Participation numbers up

Gordon said participation numbers in Royal Oak High School sports have increased, which he said should serve as a sign that programs such as soccer are headed in the right direction.

“As programs develop, coaches develop with them, and we arguably play in one of the toughest divisions in the state of Michigan,” Gordon said. “I witnessed all 13 of those losses last year, and I can tell you that — with the exception of just a couple — we were in most games, and we were competing. I think our program’s going in the right direction, and I think Coach Lukezich can lead them.”