Hady Bandar, left, and Dearborn Fordson face a huge game against Monroe. The winner is in the postseason, and the loser will be out. (Elizabeth Conley)
Grosse Pointe—Tim Brandon never lost hope.
Even after his Grosse Pointe South team lost to Utica Eisenhower to fall to 1-3, the coach remained upbeat and reminded his players to do the same.
“We knew the first half would be tough,” Brandon said. “Even though we lost to Ike, we felt good about our team. We had more total yards (than Eisenhower) and had the edge in time of possession. We knew we were good. We had the capability of winning five straight.”
Four down, one to go.
South (5-3) is one of 84 teams that can clinch a state playoff spot with a victory this week. Standing in its path is St. Clair Shores Lakeview (3-5), a team out of the playoff hunt.
“I talked with Woz (Lakeview coach Rob Wozniak) on Saturday when we exchanged film,” Brandon said. “He was on my staff a few years ago. He said this was a big game for us. I said we’ve had big games the past four weeks.”
Brandon’s first step in the run was to establish consistency at quarterback. Richie Kish was made the starter and Ryan Liagre, whom Kish shared time with, moved to linebacker.
“Kish is playing very well,” Brandon said. “He gave us more consistency.”
On the bubble
When Oscar Olejniczak returned to U-D Jesuit this season, he wanted to keep things simple.
He wanted his players to play with dignity and pride in the spirit of the Jesuit order. And as a U-D graduate and former assistant, Olejniczak was familiar with these attributes.
And his players responded.
If U-D (4-4) defeats Birmingham Seaholm (8-0) this week, its playoff average would be approximately 67, likely good enough to reach the postseason as an additional qualifier. Last season five Class A teams made it as additional qualifiers.
“It would be a huge step,” Olejniczak said. “We talked about the process. It would just catapult us the next few years. We’ve already taken some big steps. They had to learn a new offense and a new defense. They’ve taken steps off the field, too. They’re trying to be leaders in school.”
U-D hasn’t had a winning season since 2002 and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2001.
Dearborn Fordson has made the playoffs seven consecutive seasons and nine of the last 11, but a home loss to Belleville two weeks ago placed it in a precarious position of having to win its final two games to advance.
It rolled past Dearborn Edsel Ford last week, but must go to Monroe (5-3), with the winner in and the loser out.
“This is what you shoot for,” Fordson coach Walker Zaban said. “It’s always the goal. Once you get in, who knows?”
... Last season, Rochester Adams missed the postseason, and in its finale, kept rival Rochester at home, too, with a victory.
Now, Rochester (4-4) can return the favor as it hosts Adams (5-3) on Friday.