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South Lyon earns respect

By: Tom Markowski, September 21, 2014, 12:00 am

South Lyon – Mark Thomas said his team was looking for respect last Friday when South Lyon travelled to Northville.
South Lyon got that respect, and a bit of a payback, with a 21-12 victory. Last season Northville kicked a last-second field goal to defeat South Lyon, 16-15.
South Lyon is the smallest Class A school in the 24-member Kensington Lakes Activities Association. With 1,254 students South Lyon competes against schools like Northville, which has 2,298 students, Novi with 1,994 and Salem with 2,213 in the KLAA Central Division.
South Lyon’s sister school, South Lyon East, is the KLAA’s smallest school by enrollment at 881, and competes in Class B.
 Northville (3-1, 1-1) entered the game ranked No. 14 in the State Champs top 25 and the Mustangs boast two of the state’s top 25 players in lineman David Moorman and defensive end/tight end Ryan Roberts.
South Lyon doesn’t have any glamour boys and there’s nothing pretty about the way it plays. Thomas’ teams are known for their rock ‘em-sock ‘em, proverbial old-school style of play.
The name of their running back, Trevor Tank, tells you all you need to know about Thomas’ offensive philosophy.
Tank bulled his way for a touchdowns and 126 of his team’s 253 rushing yards against Northville, and now it’s South Lyon (at No. 25) the team from the KLAA Central ranked.
South Lyon (4-0, 2-0) will host Livonia Stevenson (3-1, 2-0) this Friday in a game for sole possession of first place.
“We’re so small,” Thomas said in reference to his players, not the school’s enrollment. “Our offensive line averages around 225 (pounds) and John Dixon, at 6-feet, is probably our tallest lineman. We run basic plays. Our (play) book is real shallow. It’s the South Lyon of old.”
There was a time when South Lyon’s enrollment was on even terms with the other schools it competed against.
In 2004 South Lyon had over 1,800 students and reached a Division 1 semifinal losing to Rockford 17-10. That was Thomas’ first season as head coach. In ’06 the Lions lost to Canton 14-10 in a district final and finished 9-2.
Soon after South Lyon East was built splitting the enrollment basically in half. East’s first season fielding a varsity program was in ’08 and South Lyon was 4-5 that year. South Lyon’s enrollment dipped to 1,183 in 2010 and the program struggled. Thomas’ team finished 3-6 that season then rebounded the next finishing 7-4.
It’s a numbers game and the programs with 50, 60 or 70 players on varsity are the ones that win the battle of attrition. It’s not uncommon for Northville to field a team with 70 or 80 players.
Thomas has 47 on varsity, the most since his 2004 team. It’s a number he can work with.
“We’ve got our head above water now,” he said. “We’ve got a good group of seniors. I’ve got 26 seniors and 21 juniors. That’s good.
“We made the playoffs last year (finished 6-4). We stepped it up now. We lost to Pinckney (14-10) in the playoffs and we opened with them and won (41-16). That helped.
“I’ve got good coaches. They’ve been with me for four years or so. We’ve run the pistol for the last four years. We brought it in before it became popular. We run zone blocking (schemes) because we’re not that big. But they’re tough kids. They like each other. We play with a lot of heart. Nobody talked about us this season.”   
 They’re talking now.