Romulus — A collective roar came up from Romulus football players Sunday night at The Sporting News Grill inside the Holiday Inn when the school's name appeared during Fox Sports Detroit's "State Playoffs Pairings Show."
Yes, Romulus found out it is going to play in the state playoffs for the first time since 2000. Romulus (6-3) will play at Trenton (6-3) in a Division 3 pre-district game.
"We're excited," Romulus fifth-year head coach Thomas Patterson said. "To see all the guys come out with a bright, positive attitude, they're excited and I'm excited. We're all excited and ready to go.
"With this matchup against Trenton, I don't know much about them, but I do happen to have some connections to Trenton, so it will be an hour or two until I know everything about them."
Sure, Romulus once had a strong tradition for football … a long time ago when Fred Russell played in the late '90s, running for 2,473 yards and 44 TDs in 1998 before starring at Iowa where he had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
Now, Patterson said this season has built interest in the sport again with Romulus known a lot more for basketball, winning a Class A state title in 2013 and having jerseys of former NBA players Terry Mills (state title in '86), Grant Long and John Long showcased in the school's lobby.
"I have kids from all over the place wanting to play now and it's a really neat feeling," Patterson said. "I've been here five years now and we've been the laughingstock for a few years and it's nice to see young guys like (Senior running back) Oscar (Brown) come up and just really show that dedication in the weight room, dedication being at practice really pays off."
Brown has run for more than 1,000 yards and so has quarterback Darius Jackson while running out of the read option offense. Brown is being recruited by Bowling Green and Ivy League schools. Jackson has had offers from Southern Illinois and Ferris State.
"This is everything I expected it to be," said Brown of watching the Pairings Show with his teammates. "It felt like my dream just came true, seeing our school's name up there. I'm going to try and stay humble, keep the team humble and just work hard so we're ready."
"We're ready to make some noise," Jackson said. "We're all excited. It's been a long, long time since we've been in the playoffs."
Romulus went winless, going 0-8 in 2012 before a 3-5 season last year.
"We're thrilled to death," Patterson said. "We think that this is a wonderful opportunity to promote what Romulus is doing and hopefully bring some more students to Romulus so they can see what we have to offer. This is a great school, a great community."
Still, Patterson has to deal with standout defensive end Immanuel Stinson, who was benched aftermissing practices. .
"He's made it very clear that following the rules is not something he does necessarily well," Patterson said. "He's missed practices and has had reasons for some, but as far as I'm concerned and as far as the team's concerned if you're not here, the next man up. It's a big policy around here we're deep with talent and we have to give those guys the opportunity to play."
Fraser set for first appearance since '98
Pat Threet made a banner, displaying the years of Fraser's state playoff appearances on it soon after he arrived at the school to become head football coach several years ago.
When a new athletic director arrived, he asked Threet about the banner, wondering why he did it since the school had been without an appearance for such a long period of time.
"For motivation," Threet said, pointing out the school's history of postseason play came in 1981, 1991,'92,'93, '94 and '98.
Well, now Threet can put a 2014 on it with great pride.
Fraser defeated Sterling Heights 42-21 Friday night to stamp its ticket into the Show. The players found out while watching the Pairings Show at Buffalo Wild Wings in Clinton Township they will be playing at Dearborn Fordson — ranked No. 10 in The News' Super 20 poll — in a Division 1 pre-district game.
It almost didn't happen. Fraser opened the season with a 1-3 record, including three straight losses to Warren Cousino (38-28), Grosse Pointe North (14-13) and Sterling Heights Stevenson (38-14). Then, it trailed New Baltimore Anchor Bay 12-0 in the first half of Week No. 5 and another loss would definitely send the Ramblers to the sidelines once again.
Instead, Fraser rallied back for a 42-25 win, starting a five-game winning streak en route to its first playoff appearance in 16 years.
"Trust me, we've basically been in the playoffs since Week 5, needing to win or be eliminated from playoff contention," Threet said. "It's great to get in. We've earned it. I'm happy for our kids. We've had different guys step up every week."
Threet said he runs just four or five plays in his option/wing-T offense, feeling it makes it easy for reserves to come in an contribute right away.
"We keep things simple, feeling it's about execution, not innovation," Threet said. "Luke Warchol was having an outstanding season at running back until he cracked his femur in Week No. 7. Dominic Mielke, a sophomore, came in and has been a big-time player for us."
Fraser is led defensively by four-year varsity linebacker Marcus Bowers (Air Force) with quarterback Dylan Walker and receiver Jeff Mainhardt sparking the offense.
West Bloomfield rebounds
West Bloomfield has gone from 1-8 in 2012 to 8-1 this season to earn its first playoff appearance since 2008.
Now, West Bloomfield will host its first postseason game in school history while in search for that first playoff win. West Bloomfield will host Livonia Stevenson (6-3) in a Division 1 pre-district game.
"It's so exciting to make history, being able to have our first home playoff game," said junior dual-threat quarterback Trishton Jackson, who attended the Michigan-Michigan State game Saturday after being invited by the Spartans' coaching staff. "I'm proud of all of us for the turnaround. It's incredible, a dream come true, especially since my freshman year when we were 1-8."
West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy moved to the spread offense last year and Jackson has run it to near perfection with Mike King (running back) and Trishton's older brother Obbie Jackson (receiver) as two big weapons. Obbie, who also plays defensive back, will play at EMU next year.
West Bloomfield's lone loss came against No. 1 Clarkston, the defending Division 1 state champs, 55-41 in Week No. 3 with the game tied at 41 heading into the final quarter.
What a turnaround
It was quite a turnaround for Detroit Central.
After a winless 2013 season, Central earned a playoff spot with a 6-3 record, winning its final four games after a 2-3 start. Its reward … a Division 5 pre-district game at Marine City (9-0), which won the Division 4 state championship last year.
Central defeated University Prep, 32-29, Thursday to qualify, coming back from a 23-12 halftime deficit.
"I told the kids it was gut-check time and it was win or go home," said Central coach Jimmy Macon of the win over University Prep. "The kids did a great job in the second half. We made adjustments, stopped the run and only gave up four first downs in the second half.
"It's a great feeling to get in the playoffs and we're happy and excited, especially after having that type of season last year."
Sophomore dual-threat quarterback Darius Lynuam has thrown for 1,987 yards and rushed for 912, throwing for 315 yards in the win over University Prep. Lamon Moore, a 6-3, 215-pound senior two-way player had five catches and seven tackles.
Central competed in the postseason back in 2012, losing 32-26 in a pre-district game at St. Clair.
OLSM, EGR back in
… Orchard Lake St. Mary's (7-2) and East Grand Rapids (6-3) are back in the playoffs after missing the Big Show last year. They will both be competing in Division 3. OLSM won the D3 state title in 2011 and was state runnerup in '12. EGR earned five straight D3 state titles from 2006-10.
Sneaking in at 5-4
… Utica Eisenhower was among six teams with 5-4 records to qualify for postseason play in Division 1. Eisenhower had a schedule which included seven teams which advanced to the playoffs, including MAC Red champion Macomb Dakota, its pre-district opponent. Dakota defeated Eisenhower 21-14 earlier this season. Detroit Country Day is another 5-4 team that earned a spot in Division 4 where it will play at 5-4 Detroit Denby. DCD lost its four games against teams with a combined record of 36-0.
On the sidelines
… Traditional power Detroit Catholic Central (4-5) and Lake Orion (4-5) will be on the sidelines. Catholic Central's run of seven straight playoff appearances is over after a 4-5 record. The Shamrocks won the Division 1 state title five years ago and competed in the state championship game the last three years, losing in 2011 and '12 to Detroit Cass Tech and to Clarkston last year. Lake Orion finished 4-5 for its first losing season since 1996. The Dragons won the Division 1 state title in 2010 and lost to Rockford in the '08 title game.