Shrine unbeaten and looking strong as ever heading into Prep Bowl, postseason

By: Mike Moore | Royal Oak Review | Published October 20, 2011

 Shrine running back Colin Kelly (32) works off a block from Raymond Brown (8) during a win against Our Lady of the Lakes. Shrine is 8-0 and plays in the Oct. 22 Prep Bowl at Ford Field.

Shrine running back Colin Kelly (32) works off a block from Raymond Brown (8) during a win against Our Lady of the Lakes. Shrine is 8-0 and plays in the Oct. 22 Prep Bowl at Ford Field.

Photo by Donna Agusti


ROYAL OAK — He’s been coaching for decades, the past 19 years at Royal Oak Shrine alone. So when John Goddard elevates any aspect of his current team above any else he’s worked with, well, you know something special is going on.

And that’d be one way to describe the Knights’ 2011 season thus far.

“You have to enjoy this. I mean, I’m having as good a time with this team as I ever had,” Goddard said last week. “It’s such a great group of guys.”

“I caught myself just stepping back and watching them do what they do during the (Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes) game, and it’s pretty cool,” Goddard added of a 25-7 win Oct. 9. “The maturity and composure they have after a big win, the way they play the game, it’s all been pretty cool.”

Following their Oct. 15 victory against Madison Heights Bishop Foley, the Knights are a perfect 8-0 and headed back to the Catholic League’s Prep Bowl Oct. 22 where they’ll face Detroit Loyola (8-0) at 4 p.m. in the CD championship game at Ford Field.

It’s been a journey Goddard has treasured, but not necessarily one he predicted.

Not totally, anyway.

“I guess it’s tough to expect to be undefeated the way we have,” he said. “At the same time, we expected to compete as much as we could, and we’ve got some good veterans who’ve been through this before. But with a tougher schedule than we’re used to, you don’t really count on going unbeaten this long.”

The eight wins so far can’t come as a complete surprise, though, especially when looking at the dynamic of the team and the way it’s constructed. A year ago, the Knights were 7-4 and lost to Loyola 38-7 in the Prep Bowl before reaching the second round of the state playoffs.

When the season ended, Shrine bid farewell to just five seniors, subsequently bringing back seven offensive starters and eight on the defensive side.

This year’s crop hasn’t missed a beat, opening the year with a 38-7 win against Suttons Bay, winning its next three games without allowing a point, and allowing more than one touchdown only once all year, in a 33-22 win against Riverview Gabriel Richard Sept. 23.

“We’ve got a lot of weapons,” said senior running back Raymond Brown, who statistically is weapon No. 1 on offense. “The chemistry is certainly there with this team. We have that feel like we can compete with anyone we play.”

Asked if he was at all surprised at the team’s record so far, junior Jack Wangler said, “Honestly, I think a lot of guys here would be disappointed if we weren’t (undefeated). … There was so much that went into this offseason. I think guys saw what we did last year and knew the potential we had. Guys worked a lot leading up to this.”

Goddard said there’s been a ‘business-like approach’ to the season from his players. While crediting their maturity and experience, he noted their ability to avoid any real highs or low lows.

“We’ll sit around in December and tell ourselves how good we are,” he added.

But that question remains.

Just how good is this team, and what kind of run could it have in store once the Division 7 playoffs get rolling?

“When we take things one game at a time, I like our chances against anyone,” Brown boasted.

“If we stay healthy and play our game, I believe we can hang with anyone out there,” Goddard said. “Will we beat everyone? Who knows? That’s the fun part of the state tournament.”