Royal Oak, Groves coaches look to one another for praise, motivation

By: Alex Tekip | Royal Oak Review | Published October 21, 2015

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ROYAL OAK — Birmingham Groves defeated Royal Oak High 42-0 to win the outright Oakland Activities Blue Division title on Oct. 16.

Groves coach Brendan Flaherty celebrated with his fellow coaches. He said how proud he was of his team. And then he went right into praising Royal Oak coach Ray McMann and his vastly improved Ravens squad. 

“I respect Ray,” Flaherty said. “He’s doing a great job here getting everything turned around.”

Having witnessed McMann’s coaching aptitude when he was a volleyball coach at Groves, Flaherty, a Royal Oak native and graduate of Shrine High School, said Royal Oak’s turnaround isn’t a complete shock.

  “(McMann) is very highly respected and regarded here, so we’re not surprised,” he said.

Flaherty has more in common with the Ravens than being from Royal Oak. Like McMann, Flaherty, who has been at Groves for 15 years, worked hard to change the culture of the Falcons’ football program. Prior to its current streak of three consecutive winning seasons, Groves had only one winning season between 2006-2012.

McMann said he admires Flaherty’s efforts in turning around the program. In fact, he used  it as an example of the journey that is just beginning at Royal Oak.

  “You look at Groves, I mean, they weren’t the best teams seven, eight years ago, and Coach Flaherty, he stuck with it,” McMann said. “The kids believed in what he’s doing.”

  Royal Oak has not had a winning season since 2007, when it went 5-4. In the last seven years, the Ravens have had only six wins. This year, the Ravens have a chance to finish with the same record as they did in 2007, one win shy of the program’s win total since 2009, if they defeat Livonia Franklin on Oct. 23.

McMann said the Ravens’ most successful season in eight years is generating excitement on the sidelines, in the bleachers and in the hallways during the school day. He said the positive vibes would only intensify with a winning season.

“I think (finishing 5-4) would be huge for the student body, “ said McMann. “The buzz around the school is just completely different this year. The  kids in the hall (are asking), ‘Hey, what’s your game plan for tonight, coach?’”

McMann said he looks to Flaherty’s success in generating interest at the lower levels — freshman, junior varsity and youth football — as a blueprint for unifying Royal Oak’s football community at all levels.

Terry Powers, who guided the Ravens to their last winning season in 2007, serves as the head coach at Royal Oak Middle School. A player from the Royal Oak Chargers or Royal Oak Chiefs, the city’s two youth football programs, can be seen on the sideline at almost every Royal Oak home game.

“We’ve had eight kids come out for football since the year started at the lower levels because they’re excited about Royal Oak football,” McMann said. “So, there’s excitement; 5-4 would just be a huge building block.”

Flaherty said he’s excited to see his hometown taking steps to build a successful high school football program.

“I want Royal Oak to succeed,” he said.  “It’s a great football town; it’s a tough town. It’s a great community. It’s where I grew up. So, I want them to have success. I think they’re on the right track. … They’re tough kids and they’re a tough team.”

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