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 Oakland University club football running back Blake Fetterhoff carries the ball against the club team from Michigan State University earlier this season. Oakland has national championship aspirations this season.

Oakland University club football running back Blake Fetterhoff carries the ball against the club team from Michigan State University earlier this season. Oakland has national championship aspirations this season.

Photo provided by Jenna Pini

OU club football in the midst of another winning season

By: Mark Vest | Rochester Post | Published October 18, 2019


ROCHESTER HILLS — According to Oakland University club football coach Chuck Saad, “We coach our kids, we run our practices, we run our season as if we’re a Division II football program.”

Oakland is in its seventh season in the National Club Football Association, and the way the team operates can go a long way toward explaining the kind of success the Golden Grizzlies have enjoyed.

Since becoming a program, Oakland has won two NCFA national championships and has been to the championship game three times.

According to faculty adviser Nic Bongers, Oakland was 48-8 in NCFA games. At press time, the Golden Grizzlies were 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the Great Lakes East Conference this season.

With all the success Oakland has had, there are always the highest of expectations.

“We’re the New England Patriots of the NCFA,” Saad said. “We expect to go to the Great Lakes championship every year, and we expect to make a run at the national title. … The pressure at Oakland University is there is only one goal, and that’s to win a national championship. … Anything short of that would be a disappointment.”

Quarterback Ben Hajciar is in his fourth season with Oakland. He has been around long enough to understand some of what has gone into the club’s success.

“I think we put together a good game plan every week, and our guys prepare pretty well,” Hajciar said. “I think that correlates to our success. … We’ve won the Great Lakes Conference (the) past three years, so I think that puts us in a good spot to get to the national championship every year.”

Oakland’s one loss this season came against Ohio State University’s club team, which gave the Buckeyes their first-ever NCFA win against the Golden Grizzlies.

If Oakland does make it back to the national championship game, there could be a potential rematch in the making.

“We expect to get back, and I think it’s (going to) be Ohio State this year that we’re (going to) have to face in the national championship,” Saad said. “They got a really good football team.”

While some NCAA players are on scholarship with the hope of eventually getting paid to play in the NFL, NCFA players are in a very different situation.

The NCFA is pay-to-play, and that is something that has not been lost on Saad.

“I’ve been criticized for not yelling at my kids enough,” he said. “How can you yell at a kid that is paying to go to school? He’s working to pay for football, he’s practicing three days a week, (and) he’s working out five, six days a week to experience his dream that he couldn’t experience at a higher level. How can you possibly fault a kid like that?”

Although some might want Oakland to eventually move on to compete at the NCAA level, what the club already has going for it has not escaped Bongers’ attention.

“We like showing the university that students can put together a college football program and play at a national level,” he said.

Meet the Golden Grizzlies

• Devon Banks, Clarkston High

• Dylan Brand, Richmond High

• Nickolas Carr, Romeo High

• Justin Cooney, Lapeer East

• Christopher Covington, North Farmington

• Adam Davenport, Rochester Adams

• Michael Denison, Walled Lake Central

• Joseph DiFranco, Sterling Heights Stevenson

• George Dinaj, Durand Area High

• Joseph Dinaj, Durand Area

• Christopher Dowell, Pontiac High

• William Fetterhoff III, Rochester High

• Blake Fetterhoff, Rochester

• Trent Grabowski, Armada High

• Ben Hajciar, Fenton High

• Dawsen Hebb, Oxford High

• Brett Jacobs, Birmingham Brother Rice

• Tyrese Johnson, West Point High

• Brian Khashola, Sterling Heights High

• Carlo Manzella, Utica Ford II

• Robert Martin, Lapeer High

• Eness Meri, Utica Eisenhower

• Jaysin Myers, Detroit Edison Public School Academy

• Sam Peyerk, Dryden High

• Ryan Pini, Macomb Lutheran North

• Harold Scandrick Jr., Pontiac High

• Andrew Sebra, Eisenhower

• Ian Weirich, Faith Christian School

• Donaven Wilson, Edison Public School Academy