‘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.



Posted on September 12, 2011, in Patch, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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