Northern football program enjoys winning season, first trip to state playoffs

By: Mike Moore | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published November 14, 2012

 Walled Lake Northern quarterback Collin O’Donnell looks downfield for an open receiver during the district final against Catholic Central.

Walled Lake Northern quarterback Collin O’Donnell looks downfield for an open receiver during the district final against Catholic Central.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

COMMERCE TOWNSHIP — So much hope and so much promise quickly evaporated into a worst-case scenario on the horizon.

When the 2012 season began, the Walled Lake Northern football team had mounting expectations, sights set on accomplishments not known within the program before.

And then, two weeks in, the Knights were winless and facing the end before things hardly had a chance to get going.

“You start a season 0-2, and you can’t help but get discouraged and wonder what the heck it is you’re doing wrong,” coach Brett Moore said. Northern dropped its season opener 56-54 to Livonia Churchill and then fell 49-42 to Plymouth Salem.

“But then we sat down and talked about the difference in being 0-2 and being 2-0,” he added. “It was four or five plays in each game that had to change. So we decided not to focus on losing twice, but changing those few plays that could make the biggest difference.”

The approach worked — eight times over.

“It was a fun ride,” Moore said of a seven-game winning streak that put Northern in the playoffs for the first time ever, followed by an opening-round 41-27 victory against Howell High in the Division 1 tournament.

The season finally ended in a 45-17 loss to Novi Detroit Catholic Central in a district final Nov. 2, ending the year with an 8-3 record.

“They were big and physical, and I think they just wore us down,” Moore said of the Shamrocks (7-4). “They were too physical, and we were a little shorthanded, so it made things tough.”

Northern actually led 10-3 in the first half and trailed just 16-10 at halftime. But Catholic Central’s size, depth and playoff experience took over.

The Shamrocks scored five unanswered touchdowns to eventually pull away.

“It was a good effort from the guys,” Moore said. “It will always come down to a few things here and there, but Catholic Central was the better team that night. Our guys have nothing to be ashamed of. They were disappointed, but I think more so that the season had to come to an end and this group wasn’t going to play again anymore.”

That may be the case, but the 2012 crop of players certainly left their mark on the Northern program.

“This year was a huge building block that shows what this program can do,” Moore said. “A few years ago, we were the cellar- dwellers. This year, we won the division, we won the conference title and won a playoff game. It started with outstanding senior leadership, a group unlike any other I’ve ever had.”

“We’re going to lose some of those guys, and we’re going to have a hard time replacing them,” Moore continued. “But there’s a great core coming back on both sides of the ball, and I think there’s a lot of people looking forward to the future here.”