One of the more remarkable stories of the football season can be found in midtown Detroit, where Delta Prep Academy for Social Justice has qualified for the Division 7 state playoffs in its second year of competition.
The architect is coach Barak Holmes, who took over the program in Week 5 last season.
“I found out there were incredible athletes in the school already — it’s just that they didn’t get along well with the old coach,” he said.
Last season, the Pioneers played one of the most ambitious schedules in the state, given the school’s enrollment of only 250 students.
Delta went 2-6, including losses to U-D Jesuit, 65-0, Novi Detroit Catholic Central, 58-8, and Walled Lake Western, 68-20.
With the experience learned from tough games, the Pioneers expected to make a quantum leap this season and openly spoke of making the playoffs.
“We talked about it all year,” Holmes said. “We talked about it a little more during 7-on-7 season and then we started 0-2.
“But it built character. I asked the boys on the bus if they wanted to keep fighting, and they said they did. Then proved it. They went out and beat (Detroit) Voyageur, and we peeled off five straight games.”
Running back Alante Dale, who has gained 1,380 yards and scored 12 touchdowns, led the turnaround.
In Week 8, Delta lost to Ecorse, 12-6, making it 5-3 and one victory shy of an automatic playoff spot. Chances were remote it could be an additional qualifier at 5-4. Last week, Delta rallied from a 12-0 deficit to beat Detroit Edison, 16-14.
“We never even talked about the 5-4 thing,” Holmes said. “We talked all week about making sure we were committed to finishing the job and getting the boys to really see the goal.”
Delta is on firm ground now. Its enrollment is up to 327, and next season it and Edison will join the Detroit Public School League.
But all the Pioneers are thinking about is tonight’s playoff game at Hudson, which has one of the most storied programs in the state, including a state-record 72-game winning streak in 1968-75.
Holmes watched the film of a Hudson game and was interested in coach Chris Luma’s comments.
“Coach Luma said it’s a tradition at Hudson that they get 300 yards on the ground,” Holmes said. “I can tell you that ain’t happening to my machine.
“It’s going to be an interesting football game. It’s going to be the smash-mouth team against the spread team. We’ll see who comes out better. We’re definitely not going there to lose.”
Football coaches, it’s time to vote for all-state teams!
The Free Press all-state football ballots have been mailed to each school in the state, and coaches have the opportunity to cast votes for players in all eight divisions. There is nothing political about the Free Press all-state team. If the coach votes, his players have a chance.
Coach of the week
Breckenridge’s Kris Robinson is this week’s Detroit Lions/Farm Bureau Insurance Michigan High School Coach of the Week.
Last week, Breckenridge defeated Burton Bendle, 22-12, to become the first school in the playoff era to go from an 0-9 season to a 9-0 season. In Robinson’s fourth year as head coach, the Huskies qualified for the Division 8 playoffs for only the third time in school history and will host Saginaw Nouvel tonight.