ROYAL OAK — The first time was a battle, a seven-point difference that was as close as the score suggests.
Expect more of the same this weekend when the Royal Oak Shrine football team locks horns with Madison Heights Bishop Foley in a Division 7 playoff opener.
“When the (Catholic League) did all the preseason stuff, I picked Foley to win our division,” Shrine coach John Goddard said. “That’s how good I thought they were. And now, after having a great season, we are facing another great challenge.”
The league rivals will meet for the second time in seven weeks when the playoffs begin.
The game is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 1 at Foley.
“It’s going to be two good teams playing one another,” Goddard said. “That’s what you get this time of year.”
Shrine (6-3) won the first meeting, a 13-6 game in late September.
But the Knights are also fresh off a disappointing 28-10 loss to Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes in last weekend’s Prep Bowl at Ford Field.
“We played the best 24 minutes of the year in the first half, and then the worst eight minutes we’ve played all year in the second half,” Goddard said. Shrine led 10-7 at halftime but trailed 28-10 after the third quarter. “There were just too many mistakes, and that’s what we have to avoid (against Foley).”
Goddard said he and his guys can’t take too much from the first game, if anything at all.
“It was so close, and truthfully, it’s probably a game Foley (6-3) thinks they should have won,” he explained. “This will be another one that comes down to a team limiting their mistakes. And we need to find a way to score some points, because I know Foley can.”
Shrine has won five of the past six meetings against Foley, including a 28-14 victory in a 2010 playoff opener.
Clawson and Country Day
In D-4 action, Clawson High coach Jim Sparks is hoping for a David against Goliath upset.
“We’re the second-smallest school in Division 4, and we’re taking on a state power,” Sparks said of his team’s playoff opener against Country Day, set for 7 p.m. Nov. 1 in Beverly Hills. “They have an awesome practice facility with three Division I athletes on their team, and they are riding a six-game winning streak. Without a league to play in, the playoffs are what they aim for. So it’s a unique challenge for our guys, that’s for sure.”
Clawson finished the regular season 7-2, winning the most games for the program since a 7-3 finish in 2006.
A 58-34 victory against Eastpointe East Detroit in Week 9 pushed the Trojans’ winning streak to four games.
Country Day started the season with three consecutive losses before finishing 6-3.
The Yellowjackets reached last year’s D-4 title game, falling to Grand Rapids South Christian 40-7.
“We’re used to playing some good teams, some quality opponents,” Sparks added. “The task now is getting these guys to believe that we are a team that can beat them if we play well enough and limit our mistakes. I think that is true across the board. We have to take care of our business, throw everything we have at them and see how it goes. It’s a great challenge, but you only have to win once. This isn’t a best-out-of-seven series.”