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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hail to these victors!

Daily Tribune Photo/Liz Carnegie
Royal Oak coach Jeff Hill instructs his players during their season-opening win over Lake Shore

Nathaniel Hawthorne could’ve been a sportswriter.
Hester Prynne knew plenty about shame.
She had that Scarlet Letter. Here’s was an A. Change the color scheme and move down the alphabet a bit and the football players from Royal Oak High know exactly how she felt.
It was downright shameful to be in the huddle for awhile at Royal Oak High. Prynne had her A. The letter on their foreheads was an L.
Twenty seven straight losses. Twenty eight if you add that final game of the 2007 season when the Ravens fell to Oak Park to finish 5-4.
“These coaches believed in us when I am not sure we even believed in ourselves,” said Nolan Jones, a middle linebacker on the Royal Oak squad.
Is there a dermatologist in the house? They can eradicate tattoos, right? How about Scarlet Letters?
The Royal Oak Ravens put a period at the end of that infernal lingering sentence with Thursday night’s 21-20 victory over visiting St. Clair Shores Lake Shore.
They achieved the win in the most definitive way, too. Coach Tom Iwanicki’s Lake Shore squad decided to try for a two-point conversion and go for the win after scoring with just 25 seconds left.
The Royal Oak defense rose up and smacked the Lake Shore running back well short of the goal line.
“That felt so good,” said David McPherson, a two-way lineman for Royal Oak. “Just to hit the guy and know we stopped him.”
McPherson had been with the program for four years, the last three on varsity. That means he was part of all 27 of those losses.
So were Jones, Brandon Fredrikson and Robert Gibson.
“It was a great feeling. To get this for the school, the community and mostly for the team. We’ve put so much work into this. We’ve been out here for a long time working,” said Gibson.
He was walking with a noticeable limp Friday morning. He had gotten injured in the previous night’s game. There was no grimace on his face. It was a smile that would not go away.
“I love the game. I love Royal Oak and I love the team. Not winning is difficult, but giving up on the guys would’ve been even more difficult. I would never do that. We tried our best each and every night. We never gave up.”
A lot of guys would’ve quit. A lot of guys would’ve packed up and left the field if not town altogether. Football is hard work. The nine-week regular season is barely dirt under the finger nails. There is the lifting in the off-season. There is the abbreviated summer because of conditioning, passing camps and the like.
There were the tears of joy and almost disbelief shed on the field after the game. That is among the memories that Fredrikson took away from Thursday night’s game.
Wesley Howell and Harrison Long are also seniors on the Royal Oak squad. They’ve been with the program all four years in high school and have been on the varsity the last two. They grew up playing youth football together.
The Chargers and the Chiefs are the breeding ground of young players in Royal Oak.
Howell is a defensive end/tailback. Long is an outside linebacker/offensive tackle. He weighs in at about 150 pounds.
They were both on the field when the final two-point conversion was attempted.
“The coaches told us all week about Lake Shore’s tendencies on offense. They run the same two or three plays frequently,” said Howell.
The defense was called. The gaps were plugged. The victory was secured.
Howell and Long don’t only play football. They are also part of a band called Armour The Lion. Howell plays bass and Long is on the drums. A buddy, Sam Urich, does most of the vocal work, as well as play lead guitar and keyboards.
Armour The Lion has played at a lot of the local venues including the Crofoot in Pontiac and the New Way in Ferndale. An EP is coming out soon.
It might be time to cut another tune. How about Hail to the Victors on a Stratocaster?


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