Southfield’s football team is right where it expects to be at this time of the year — participating in the MHSAA’s annual state tournament.
As an added bonus, the Blue Jays, Division 2 state semifinalists last season, get to open their 2015 playoff tourney against a familiar foe — Oak Park.
The Blue Jays (6-3) will host the Knights (5-4) in a Division 2 pre-district game 1 p.m. Saturday.
“Making the playoffs is an expectation for our program,” said Southfield head coach Tim Conley. “Besides striving to do our best in the classroom, competing for post-season championships is a second.”
This marks the second meeting between the OAA White Division rivals this season. In their first meeting on Oct. 16, Oak Park handed Southfield its worst loss of the season, 50-14.
In fact, this will be the third time in the past four years that Southfield and Oak Park have played twice in one season.
Last year, Southfield defeated Oak Park in both the regular season and playoffs. In 2012, they also met twice with Oak Park winning both times.
In their last six meetings, each team owns three wins.
The Southfield-Oak Park battles are always emotional and hard-hitting affairs. They are usually close games decided by 10 points or less. Southfield’s 36-point Week 7 loss this year was an exception.
“It’s always a very physical game played with a lot of emotion,” said Conley about playing Oak Park, which tied for second in the OAA White this season with 5-2 records. “We have to prepare for four quarters of football and remember that execution of our schemes is more important than the emotional aspect.”
In regards to avenging that earlier loss, Conley said this:
“I think that’s something for the coaching staff to think about, the kids have to be directed to strive to get better and to execute the offensive and defensive schemes.”
The teams are similar both offensively and defensively.
Southfield has scored 219 (24.3 average) points and Oak Park 207 (23.0 average) points in nine games this year. Defensively, the Blue Jays have allowed 146 points (16.2) and the Knights 171 (19.0).
The Blue Jays were forced to play through the year minus four “dynamic” starters in Matt Falcon, Jordan Davison, Tyrone Lyte and Darrius Cooley. Falcon, Davison and Lyte were sidelined by season-ending injuries. Cooley died last summer in a swimming accident.
“We are a young team (one senior starter on offense, four on defense) that has had to replace four dynamic starters,” said Conley. “It has been difficult to deal with the death of Darrius and the season-ending injuries. We will try to focus on the opportunity to play Oak Park this week and improve this week.
“I think this team has done well dealing with adverse situations this season,” he said. “They continue learning and improving and have represented Southfield well in our final year as a school and as the Blue Jays. Next year we will have new colors. new mascot and name when we merge with Lathrup.”