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Oakland County

January 2, 2013

Oakland County year in review

C & G SPORTS STAFF

It’s time to look back and share a few memories of 2012.

Our sport writers enjoyed the emotion and sense of achievement as our athletes hoisted state trophies, and were equally impressed as they watched coaches rebuild from the bottom up and take immense pride in a single victory.

Here’s a look at a few of the moments experienced by our writers who cover the Oakland County papers.

Some of the best, and worst, shots of the year
With the wind howling in my face, I stepped up to the tee at Indianwood Golf and Country Club facing a par 3 measuring around 215 yards.

Considering it was media day for the U.S. Senior Open, and I was playing with my editor and two peers from the west side of the state, I had a bit of nerves. Not to mention, I rarely hit it 215 straight on a calm day.

So when my tee shot covered about half the distance and ended up in the heather, leading to a double bogey, I knew what kind of day I had ahead of me.

Still, as I left the course with my ego bruised and in some serious need of new golf balls, I knew even a bad day on a beautiful golf course is still a great day.

Several months later, sitting on the hill overlooking that same green, as pro after pro made the approach look much less difficult, I also knew how fortunate I was to be able to cover an event like the U.S. Senior Open.

As a reporter, one of fondest memories came courtesy of Southfield Christian.

At the beginning of the last boys basketball season, we received a call from a reader telling us that the team was one of the best in the state.

Admittedly, I was a little skeptical. I knew the Eagles were improving, finishing 11-10 the year before after going 1-19 the previous season, but being one of the elite squads I thought was a little optimistic.

Well, they proved themselves, winning a state championship and showing that they weren’t just one of the best, but the best in Class D.

— Christian Davis

 

The evolution of prep athletes
The transformation has likely been in place for years now, but its presence seemed to hit me during the past 12 months, more so than any other time.

There’s been an evolution of the high school athlete going on, whereby bigger, faster and stronger isn’t just a cliché anymore.

Maybe it’s training regimens, or more specified practice techniques, or any host of reasons, but in the 10 years since my high school playing days ended, I don’t ever remember seeing the skillset at the level I saw in 2012.

It started last winter, especially covering the MIHL and following hockey players who were destined to one day shine at the collegiate or junior levels — some who already are.

Then came spring, where I got to document the methodical machine that was Bishop Foley baseball, a team that won 38 of 41 games, steamrolled to another state title, and may be favored to do it again in 2013.

This doesn’t even include a Warren De La Salle team that got hot at the right time, took a sub-.500 record and nearly parleyed it to a baseball title; nor does it include a Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett squad that was 25-4 and ended one win from its own back-to-back crown.

The culmination, though, was undoubtedly this fall, as I covered Brother Rice’s, St. Mary’s and Country Day’s march to Ford Field for the football finals.

High school games took on a college feel, from the atmosphere in the stands to the action on the field.

Rice’s back-and-forth 35-28 victory against Muskegon High was one of the best games I’ve ever seen.

Until the following night.

I know I wasn’t alone in my awe for the battle St. Mary’s and Grand Rapids Christian engaged in. A “one for the ages” type of game that needed overtime to finally determine a winner.

And, to bring this all full circle and provide some anecdotal evidence as to how high school athletes have quite literally taken their game to the next level, was GRC receiver Drake Harris, who single-handedly took over that D-3 final, captivating everyone in attendance with his finals-record 243 receiving yards.

He caught everything thrown his way.

Literally, everything — especially on fourth down in the game’s final moments.

Like many leaving that night, I wondered if I’ll ever see another individual performance like that again.

Then I noticed Harris was only a junior.

The evolution continues.

— Mike Moore

 

Emotion is always a good thing
Over the past year — my first as a full-time sports reporter — I’ve seen various displays of emotion from the prep athletes I’ve covered.

Some are surprising at first, such as a wrestler so distraught at a runner-up finish in the 2012 Michigan High School Athletic Association state individual wrestling finals that he didn’t seem to feel any sense of accomplishment at all after he received his medal.

But after stepping back and thinking about it, and putting the instances in perspective, I have a much better understanding of why the athletes react the way they do in certain situations.

That wrestler, for example, wasn’t being — for the lack of a better term — a brat. I believe what was going through his mind at that moment — right after a tough loss in a state championship match — was all the blood, sweat, tears, hard work, missed parties/dates he put into making it to The Palace of Auburn Hills. He worked to be the best, and to him, second best wasn’t good enough.

On the other side of the emotion spectrum was the Birmingham Brother Rice football players who played in one of the most amazing games (regardless of level) I’ve ever seen on their way to a MHSAA Division 2 state title.

The Warriors beat Muskegon High 35-28 Nov. 3 at Ford Field in a game that featured a fleaflicker and a 91-yard punt return for scores. Once the clock showed zeroes across the board, you could see players jumping for joy, hear them screaming, see them hugging. Some just fell to the turf. All of those emotions pointed to one thing.

“We did it.”

You may think the kids are celebrating too much or taking a loss too hard. But put yourself in their shoes. How would you react if you put all you had into something and you fell short, or reached your goal?

Raw emotion. That’s what I’ll remember most about 2012.

— Jason Carmel Davis