Berkley captures school’s first district title, will host Franklin in Division 2 region final
Berkley – One of the results from this past weekend’s district finals caught the attention of many in Metro Detroit and those closely following the progression in Division 2 around the state.
Berkley, which had never won a district title before, upset Southfield, 28-20, last Friday at Berkley.
It was the first time Berkley hosted a district final and when the Bears (9-2) play Livonia Franklin (8-3) in a regional final this Friday that will also be a program first.
But if one thinks that this is a fluke, that Berkley somehow was lucky to beat a young and talented Southfield team, don’t tell that to Berkley coach Chris Sikora. He won’t buy it.
“A lot of it is the kids buying into it,” Sikora said. “Do we have the athletes to match Southfield position by position? No. The kids are disciplined. They have to be to run the triple option. (The players) know Southfield is athletic. But we know they’re not going to stop us. It’s been that way all season. The only time we’ve been stopped, we’ve stopped ourselves.
“It comes down to three things, assignment, technique and execution. Every single rep in practice is a point where you can improve upon.”
It doesn’t sound like a coach who thought his team was an underdog. It sounds like a coach who is confident in his team’s abilities and expects success.
“I’m real happy for the kids,” Sikora said. “I told them they’re not here by accident.”
Berkley, a member of the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division, has had limited success in football. Competitive? Yes. Dominant? Not often.
Sikora is in his sixth season in the program and in 2013 he took over as head coach. The Bears were 3-6 that first season and they were 6-3 last season before losing in the first round of the playoffs.
Berkley incurred significant losses to graduation. Only 10 seniors are on the team and of the 30 juniors none had any varsity experience of note.
But there is quality, physically and mentally, within this group of seniors.
Nolan Givan is one of the best players in Oakland County but because he plays for Berkley, and not a more higher-profile program, he hasn’t received the notoriety he deserves.
Another top senior is Austin Wood. Both weight 220 pounds. Givan is 6-4; Wood 6-1. Both play linebacker and slot back. Givan also returns kicks.
“We have two kids who are really good,” Sikora said of the aforementioned. Berkley is known as a very good academic school. The person who is that true competitor, in the classroom and one the field, is the one who can lead a team. Nolan is that guy.”
Sikora also credits the development of the junior class. Berkley began the season at home with a 27-9 loss to Holly, a playoff team. Berkley’s inexperience was exposed. Since then the Bears’ only other loss was to Birmingham Groves (10-1), which upset Farmington Hills Harrison, 10-0, in the first round then lost to Walled Lake Western, 34-21, last Friday.
“Everything we’ve asked of the junior class they’ve done,” Sikora said. “Since that (Groves) loss we’re playing our best football. I’m a tough-love kind of guy. We told them, these are our expectations. When they saw themselves on film I’m sure they didn’t see what they expected at the beginning.”
Givan and Wood both have 3.7 grade-point averages. They’re the ones many of their classmates look toward to set the standards academically and the ones their teammates look to for inspiration on the field.
Givan has committed to Fordham. Wood is uncommitted but has scholarship offers from Valparaiso and Moorehead State.
Against Southfield the Bears forced five turnovers, one was caused by Givan. Because of his preparation, Givan read Southfield’s attempt at a double pass, deflected the ball and scooped it up and scored.
Berkley led 21-0 at halftime and closed out the game with a strong fourth quarter.