West Bloomfield, Caledonia win statement games
~~West Bloomfield – The first signs were seen last season when West Bloomfield won four straight and was one game away from clinching its first playoff appearance since 2008. A 38-17 loss to Oxford in the regular season finale kept West Bloomfield out of the playoffs.
An eye-opener this season took place against top-ranked Clarkston. The teams were tied at 34-34 after three quarters before Clarkston took over, winning 55-41.
Then there was last Friday when the Lakers hosted perennial Oakland Activities Association Red Division power Lake Orion. West Bloomfield (4-1, 3-1) hadn’t defeated Lake Orion since 1982 when both were members of the Greater Oakland Activities League (GOAL). Since then Lake Orion won 12 straight. Ron Bellamy took over the West Bloomfield program in 2010 and in the four games the teams have played since his arrival Lake Orion has outscored West Bloomfield 189-47 including last season’s 49-12 final.
Friday’s game wasn’t close, either. West Bloomfield whipped Lake Orion 39-0 to record its second shutout of the season. The last time West Bloomfield shutout an opponent was that ’08 season.
“I’m as surprised as anyone,” Bellamy said of the lopsided victory. “We’re getting better every week. The core of our guys are 50-50, half seniors, half juniors. But we have experience. Trishtan Jackson is our junior quarterback and he’s a stud basketball, too. The biggest benefit is we had six sophomores play when he was a freshmen. That experience means so much. They’re so sharp. They make adjustments.
“The most encouraging thing against Lake Orion was holding Matt Krause to 18 yards on 10 carries. He came in with over 1,000 yards. We swarmed to the ball. He’s all-world now. I challenged my players. I said the last time we played a big team we gave up 55 points. This is a signature win. Last year we got off to a slow start (1-3) then won four straight. We identified who we are. We have athletes. Let’s put them in space. Let them do what they do.”
Defensively, led by senior defensive end Eddie Wilson, the Lakers showed that what they can do was good enough against a quality program.
West side shocker
Expectations were high for Caledonia entering the season and after the first two games everything seemed to be going as smooth as coach Tom Burrill could hope for.
Then Caledonia hit a wall. It lost to Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 31-19 and then got whopped by Muskegon Mona Shores 40-7 and the season looked like it was spiraling downward.
Caledonia hosted state power and previously unbeaten Rockford on Friday and rocked the Rams, 42-0.
The score was so unfathomable that many who went online to check the score thought it was a misprint.
“I’m sure that what was happening,” Burrill said. “I had people calling and texting me asking what the real final score was.
“After we beat (Grand Rapids) South Christian (47-21) we got a little too big for ourselves. Forest Hills Central just outplayed us. And Mona is just so good. We just dedicated ourselves last week. This was our make-or-break game.”
Caledonia went 80 yards on its first drive for a touchdown against Rockford and carried that momentum throughout the half and led 35-0. The Fighting Scots rushed for 250 yards against Rockford, in the first half.
What helped to propel the ground game was Burrill’s decision to switch to the wishbone after the first drive. Caledonia switched the Auburn style offense with the quarterback as the focal point. And even though Caledonia moved the ball well on the first drive Burrill decided the change was in order.
The wishbone is the same offense Burrill used when Caledonia won its only state (Division 3) title in 2005.
“We got our identity back,” he said. “Personnel-wise, the wishbone is the offense we’re suited for.
“This was the best game we’ve played as a program since we beat East Grand Rapids (14-7) in the district final in 2005.”