Defense lifts Birmingham Groves to historic season

Defense lifts Birmingham Groves to historic season

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Defense lifts Birmingham Groves to historic season

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Birmingham Groves (10-0) has set a school record for wins this season heading into tonight’s district final at Walled Lake Western.

Birmingham Groves (10-0) has set a school record for wins this season heading into tonight’s district final at Walled Lake Western.

Nathan Lazor decided his junior year he wanted to give up football and concentrate on swimming, where he’s a 200 and 500-meter freestyler.

But after one game in the student section for Birmingham Groves last year, he couldn’t take it.

“I just couldn’t sit there,” said the 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior offensive/defensive lineman who is an All-State swimmer. “I hadn’t worked out with the team that summer or anything, but Coach (Brendan) Flaherty was kind enough to let me back on the team. I realize I love football.

“Where’s my future? I swam the other day so I’m getting ready. I don’t know.”

In what has become a bittersweet season for Lazor, he’s glad to be part of history.

With a 10-0 shutout of perennial power Farmington Hills Harrison last Friday, Groves improved to 10-0, the most wins in school history.

However, Lazor had to watch from the sidelines, as he will when the Falcons travel to Walled Lake Western (10-0) tonight for a Division 2 district final.

“I originally dislocated my shoulder in Week 3,” said Lazor. “I missed two games after; came back for the Berkley game and the Avondale game and played half a quarter in the Royal Oak game, and I’ve been out ever since. I’m still involved in the game helping the coaches know which packages are in and the defensive line. It’s bittersweet. I love the feeling of possibly coaching one day. I feel my career was cut short.”

Flaherty said Lazor is now an assistant coach and motivational speaker to a defense that held the Hawks in check last week.

“His shoulder keeps popping in and out like Mel Gibson’s in Lethal Weapon,” said Flaherty. “We’d love for him to be out there.”

There were signs during an August scrimmage against Division 1 state runner-up Saline that the Falcons might be onto something. When the teams scrimmaged, the Hornets weren’t a lot better.

“I didn’t play in that scrimmage because I had dislocated my shoulder a couple of days prior to that,” said senior captain wide receiver/defensive back Nick Moore. “I was filming and the guys actually didn’t back down. We competed with them. We got after those guys and made a lot of good plays. From that point I knew we were something special.”

Said Flaherty: “ We held our own in some respects. Some of the guys started saying we had a chance. That helped.”

Through 10 games, the Falcons have allowed just 5.8 points per game. In winning the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division, they allowed just 36 points.

Physically, Beverly Park got the players ready for the season.

“It’s about a mile from here,” said senior captain Ian Rice, who plays fullback and linebacker. “During the summer, during our conditioning we have to jog up there. That’s a character-building thing we do.”

The Falcons have a lot of returning starters, and 10 juniors who have played together since they were in the fourth grade.

“This is my best season as a head coach,” said Flaherty. “We had some opponents that we were better than and we got some confidence and got some younger kids playing for us. The momentum kind of built.”

Added Rice: “It is special knowing that you are the first close that has done that (win 10 games). It means a lot to my class. I’m one of three captains and one of two defensive captains. We just have to keep everyone working towards a common goal; winning every week.”

Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or pafarrell@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.

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