Royal Oak Shrine's Jacob Sanders takes a handoff Nov. 2 in a predistrict playoff game at home against Ottawa Lake Whiteford. The Knights beat the Bobcats 21-16.

Royal Oak Shrine's Jacob Sanders takes a handoff Nov. 2 in a predistrict playoff game at home against Ottawa Lake Whiteford. The Knights beat the Bobcats 21-16.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Shrine football does enough to get past Ottawa Lake Whiteford in D-8 playoffs

By: Jacob Herbert | Royal Oak Review | Published November 2, 2019

 Shrine quarterback Conor Benson looks for a target in the game against Ottawa Lake. Benson threw for a touchdown and ran for one in the win.

Shrine quarterback Conor Benson looks for a target in the game against Ottawa Lake. Benson threw for a touchdown and ran for one in the win.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Advertisement

ROYAL OAK — Football is a game that often comes down to a few isolated moments. A small handful of plays that decide the outcome. For Royal Oak Shrine, a touchdown on its opening possession of the second half ended up being the difference-maker in a 21-16 victory over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in a Division 8 predistrict game Nov. 2 at home.

"They brought me here not to turn the program around, but to bring it to a new level and be very detail oriented," Shrine coach Oscar Olejniczak said. "These kids, this staff and this community have bought in. In two years we went to the playoffs twice and won once against an amazing program. That's a huge win for Shrine football."

With 7:12 remaining in the third quarter, Shrine quarterback Conor Benson scored a touchdown on a 7-yard run to extend the Knights lead to 21-8. Before the touchdown, the Shrine special teams unit pinned Whiteford inside its own 5-yard line and the defense forced a three and out. A bad punt gave the Knights great field position at the Bobcats 23-yard line and Benson punched it in for the score. 

Whiteford would get within a touchdown with 3:34 remaining in regulation and pull within six points. The Shrine offense took over and failed to pick up a first down. On the ensuing Bobcats possession, Shrine sophomore linebacker Aaron Smith picked off the Whiteford throw. The Bobcats would have one more chance to take the lead with 35 seconds remaining on the clock, but a sack ended the game and propelled Shrine to the next round. The Knights defense had three total sacks in the game.

"For a team that is physical and can run the ball, they also throw it very well," Olejniczak said. "We had to do a lot of planning and our kids really bought in and took it to heart. When some of those big plays happened, we were just like 'that's exactly how we coached it.' It makes you feel really good."

Just like it scored on its first possession of the second half, Shrine's offense also scored on it's first possession of the game. Running back Jacob Sanders found a hole in the middle of the line and busted open a 53-yard touchdown run to put the Knights on the board first. 

Field conditions were vastly affected due to rain on the grass field. As a result, three straight drives ended in fumbles between the two teams. Eventually, Shrine was able to hold on to the ball as Benson found Charles Niehaus on a 75-yard touchdown pass to double the Knights lead.

A 20-yard touchdown run and a good two-point conversion gave the Bobcats their first score of the game. Trailing from the first quarter on, Whiteford coach Jason Mensing elected to go for two after both of Whiteford's touchdowns. His team converted both times.

The win marks the first playoff win at Shrine for Olejniczak in his second year leading the program. It's also the first playoff win for the Knights since 2016 when they advanced to a D-8 regional final. 

Up next for the Knights is Britton-Deerfield. The Patriots beat Detroit Public Safety 52-12 Nov. 1 to move on. The date and time for the district final have yet to be announced.

The Knights and Patriots met before during Week 7 of the regular season. Britton-Deerfield won 30-14. Olejniczak said his team learned a lot from the loss and will be ready to go this time around.

"We learned how we have to play to play playoff football because Britton-Deerfield is another good program," Olejniczak said. "We grew up a little bit after that game, and we're looking forward to having them at our place. They're going to see a different Shrine football team." 

Advertisement