After winning an Oakland Activities Association Blue Division championship in 2010, Hazel Park’s football team struggled to defend its title last season, finishing with a record of 3-6.
This season has found the Vikings once again contending for an OAA Blue championship, posting a 4-1 overall record, 3-1 in the division, at press time. The Vikings trailed three divisional foes by one game.
Coach Scott Guthrie believes that the team’s ground attack has played a major role in its resurgence.
An example of the kind of damage Hazel Park’s running game can do came in a game against Royal Oak Sept. 21. Guthrie pointed out that the Vikings had three running backs — Raeshaun Campbell, Deonte Bynum and Gary Tyner — rush for over 200 yards apiece, which helped to contribute to approximately 700 yards on the ground and a 58-47 victory for Hazel Park.
The strong start seems to be instilling a confidence among the players about the potential this season could hold.
“It’s always a goal every year to win the division and make the playoffs,” Guthrie said. “Now that we’ve got a few wins, the kids are talking about the playoffs. But we’re trying to keep them (on) level ground and say, ‘Look, we’ve got to win one game at a time.’ If it does get to the point where we’re in the hunt, maybe it will come up some more.”
The strong start has come despite facing obstacles. According to Guthrie, the school has had declining enrollment, which has affected the football team.
The Vikings do not currently have a freshman or JV squad and have to suit up approximately five to seven freshmen and sophomores, who under different circumstances would not be on the varsity team. According to Guthrie, the Vikings have only dressed 25 players for the last couple of games.
Despite a roster that may not be as large or experienced as other teams, Hazel Park was two wins away from qualifying for a playoff spot at press time. Guthrie has some ideas as to what he would like to see from his team as it heads down the stretch.
“The schedule is tough, and we have to clean up mistakes that we make,” Guthrie said. “We need to if we want to continue to win.”
The team’s last three games of the season will come against division foes, and Guthrie understands the level of competition Hazel Park will be up against in its attempt to earn a playoff spot and a division title.
“It’s real tough,” Guthrie said of the OAA Blue. “There’s three undefeated teams in our league, and we have to play two of them still. Year in, year out, it’s a battle with all these schools. We’ve had close games all year long. When we won the league a couple years ago, we battled with everybody. It’s just a tough league.”
Hazel Park played Birmingham Country Day Sept. 28, after press time.
The Vikings are next scheduled to be in action at 7 p.m. Oct. 5 against Berkley at home. At press time, Berkley was 2-2 in the OAA Blue.
Next on the scheduled is a 7 p.m. Oct. 12 road game against Birmingham Seaholm. At press time, Seaholm was 4-0 in the OAA Blue.
Hazel Park’s last game of the regular season is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 19 against Bloomfield Hills Lahser at home. At press time, Lahser was 4-0 in the OAA Blue.