Return to the gridiron: Royal Oak Review

By: Christian Davis, Mike Moore | Royal Oak Review | Published August 27, 2014

 Royal Oak High linemen go through a drill during practice Aug. 24. The Ravens open the season against Utica Ford II at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at home.

Royal Oak High linemen go through a drill during practice Aug. 24. The Ravens open the season against Utica Ford II at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at home.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

The prep football season kicks off Aug. 28 on fields across the state.

Here’s a look at your local squads, along with some thoughts from the coaches regarding what they hope will make this a season to remember.

The opening game for each squad is also listed. For a look at every local team and their complete schedule, visit and click on the Sports tab.

Royal Oak High
Last season’s record: 4-5
League: Oakland Activities Association White Division
Returning Starters: 10
Opening game: vs. Utica Ford II, 7 p.m. Aug. 29
Offensive keys:
Last season, the Ravens scored 28 or more points in four of their nine games, the highest mark since 2006.
With five returning starters, much of the offense will again rely on the play of three-year starting quarterback Brenden Beerer, who new coach Tim Chapman called a proven leader, and senior running back Noah Kochanski, who Chapman described as a high-intensity player.

Defensive keys:
The Ravens also return five starters to this unit after letting up an average of 28 points per game last season.
Senior Cullen Conway gives the Raves experience on the line.
“He gives us a proven leader on the offensive and defensive lines,” Chapman said.
Coach’s outlook:
The Ravens’ four wins last season was the most they’ve had in the last five seasons combined.
This time around, Royal Oak has moved to the OAA White with the likes of Southfield High, Oak Park High, Farmington Hills Harrison and Rochester Adams, among others.
“We want to move forward. Everything in the past is just that: the past,” Chapman said. “We came up with the motto, ‘Expect victory.’ That means more than just wins on the field, it’s a mindset. It reminds them that every day they have to be confident, especially on the football field.”

Clawson High
Last season’s record: 7-3

League: Macomb Area Conference Bronze Division

Returning starters: Seven
Opening game: at Armada High, 7 p.m. Aug. 28

Offensive keys:

Considering the potential it has, coupled with the overall youth, the offense will be interesting for Clawson in 2014.

Ty Sparks is back to lead the squad from the quarterback spot, set to start for the third consecutive season.

But with an inexperienced line, and just one returning starting receiver, a lot will be on his shoulders.

“There’s some pressure he knows that will be on him,” said coach, and dad, Jim Sparks. “With a younger offensive line and some receivers learning on the fly, he’s a guy we will count on a lot.”

Ty Sparks had a breakout junior season, passing for 2,299 yards with 23 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

But Miguel Chene is the lone offensive lineman with extensive experience, and Nick Magil-Diaz is the same at the receiver spot.

“The development of the offensive line will be our key,” Jim Sparks said.

Defensive keys:

   Inexperience is sure to define the defense, as well, especially in the early part of the season.  When the Trojans start the year against Armada, they will do so with three new starting linebackers and an entirely new secondary.

“We’re going to do the best we can to get them ready,” Sparks said. “They had a good offseason, and the 7-on-7 competitions we had all summer are things that are really going to help these guys.”

Coach’s outlook:

“I think our goals are the same as any other year,” Sparks said. “We expect to compete for the division and compete for a playoff spot. We’re not going to talk too much about wins or losses just yet. We can’t put too much emphasis on winning in a certain week with a young team. They can lose the big picture if things don’t go well right off the bat. Our emphasis will be on getting better every single time out.”

Royal Oak Shrine Knights
Last season’s record: 6-4
League: Catholic League Intersectional Division
Returning starters: 16
Opening game: at Melvindale Academy for Business and Technology, 4 p.m. Aug. 28

Offensive keys:
When asked what the key to his offense is this year, coach John Goddard wasted very little time in calling on his senior quarterback Tim Niehaus.

“The offensive revolves around him,” the long-time coach said. “We weren’t balanced enough last year, throwing too much, so we are going to get back to what we do. But it starts with Tim.”

Niehaus has no problem firing the ball around, but he’s also what Goddard called “the team’s best runner.”

“We’re going to spread things out, and he’s going to throw plenty,” Goddard added. “But he is also a guy who will be involved in the running game quite a bit.”

Experience should help the entire offense. Eight starters are back in the mix, including receiver Mike Miller, who led the team in scoring in 2013.

The entire offensive line returns, as well.

Defensive keys:
Experience is also plentiful on the defensive side of the ball, with eight starters back from a year ago.

The defense was stellar to start last year, allowing 34 total points during the team’s 5-0 run. But in the final five weeks — a 1-4 finish — the Knights gave up almost 24 points per game.

“We’re changing things up a little bit, so we had a little confusion early in camp,” Goddard said. “But we will be strong defensively this year.”

Goddard added how essential his linebackers are.

“That’s the position we are working the most at to get the most out of,” he added. “We only lost a couple starters, but that is a position we need to fill to be successful.”

Coach’s outlook:
After winning seven or more games in eight of nine years, Goddard and the Knights went 5-5 in 2012 and 6-4 last fall.

But those teams combined to have nine total seniors.

The 2014 group has 14.

“I’ve always been a firm believer that you win with seniors,” Goddard said. “If they (seniors) come along, we can be a very, very good team. It’s about putting it all together now.”