West Bloomfield — My household was on fire. My son Brandon begged to go to West Bloomfield’s high school football game this Friday against Oxford.
My wife was excited because she was talking to excited parents that said if West Bloomfield won, it would be in the state playoffs for the first time in 30 years. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. The team last made the playoffs in 2008. The parents just missed it by a few years.
The stands should be packed. Head coach Ron Bellamy has been receiving texts from friends and coaches within and outside the community and there is a buzz here in the Lakes area about a 5-3 home team playing a road team that is 4-4.
There are plenty of stories across the state like this. Teams are fighting to get into the playoffs during the final regular-season weekend for many schools. The Lions are in a playoff chase and the search for Jim Leyland’s replacement as Tigers manager are not the only stories drawing attention in our area.
If West Bloomfield is not quite to your liking, you might want to take a trip to Ford Field on Friday night at 7 when Detroit Cass Tech (8-0) plays rival Detroit Martin Luther King (7-0) in the Public School League championship game. Cass, the two-time defending Division 1 state champion, has outscored opponents, 345-32. King is not bad either, with a 296-28 margin.
There also is an interesting one Friday night at Clarkston (7-1) which hosts Southfield (7-1). Southfield’s only defeat was a close 18-14 matchup in the opener to Cass Tech.
Or maybe you want to see the end of perfection as Macomb Dakota (8-0), one of the local powers, plays Roseville (1-7). Or how about this one to whet your whistle? Birmingham Brother Rice (8-0) plays Detroit Catholic Central (7-1) Saturday night at 7 in the Catholic League championship game at Ford Field. It’s a rematch of Rice’s 28-21 victory over C.C.
There are smaller stories like West Bloomfield’s quest for the state playoffs. For the record, the Lakers have only made the playoffs three times in the past 20 years. There are challenges for West Bloomfield.
It stands in the middle of what is called “The Bowl” of private schools. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s is a half mile away and Brother Rice, Detroit Country Day and Catholic Central are all within 15-20 minutes of the school.
Each has West Bloomfield kids on its roster and Bellamy is trying to give young men a reason to stay. So there is a bigger picture here. He wants to begin a motto of “Those who stay shall be champions” which is the same motto at the University of Michigan, where he played wide receiver from 1999-2002.
After leaving U-M, he bounced around the NFL with three teams and finished his career with the Lions in 2008.
Bellamy loved being part of football camps and got the job at West Bloomfield, where he found a school with untapped talent that rarely managed to mesh enough discipline with that talent. So he came in, put together a staff he believed in and West Bloomfield has turned from an appealing homecoming opponent into a team that is up and coming.
The Lakes aren’t yet good like Clarkston or Lake Orion, teams in the Oakland Activities Association Red Division that still give them an annual face wash. But it did pull off a major victory over Stony Creek, which is currently tied for second in the league with Lake Orion, two games behind champion Clarkston.
“It is important for us to have success because the private schools take our best players,” Bellamy said. “It is important for us to show these kids at the elementary school and middle school we do have success. We can get kids into college. Our academics stack up with any school. It is about academics doing its part.”
Bellamy remains a relative baby within coaching circles. He is 31 years old now and started when he was just 27. He knew the game. It was a matter of keeping a program together and showing the community that he and his players cared.
He makes his boys do community work with local schools at fairs and other events. It makes them known and the young boys look up to them.
It’s all about recruitment, but there is no better recruiting tool than beating Oxford Friday night.