WEST BLOOMFIELD — West Bloomfield High football coach Ron Bellamy likes the direction his program is heading.
The Lakers were 3-3 overall and 2-3 in the Oakland Activities Association Red Division at press time. West Bloomfield played Rochester Hills Stoney Creek Oct. 11 at home after press time.
The three victories are more than the Lakers won in each of the previous two years.
“We’re still a young football team, but I knew we had a chance to be OK,” Bellamy said. “So far, I’ve been pleased. We get better each week, and that’s all I can ask from the kids.”
The Lakers start five sophomores on defense. The unit is giving up 28.5 points per game, but the numbers are a little skewed when taking into account that the Lakers let up more than 40 points against league-leaders Clarkston High and Lake Orion High.
“I’ve seen the defense turning a corner ever since the second half against Rochester High (week four),” Bellamy said. “We gave up 21 points in the first half and then 12 in the second. That’s when I saw that our kids bought in. We played the worst half we could have played defensively, and now they have been playing their best.
“For us, it couldn’t be a better time because we’re fighting for our playoff lives.”
As the defense matures, the offense has been churning out points. The Lakers are scoring 28 points per contest and have only 21 fewer total points than all of last season.
“We took a step back as coaches during the offseason and looked at our personnel. We’re full of athletes and have to get them the ball. We’ve just been aggressive on offense,” Bellamy said. “We said, ‘Lets try and put up a bunch of points, and as the defense gets better, we’ll get better as a team.’ That’s where we are — still trying to find our place.”
Bellamy commended the play of running backs Chris Watkins and Michael King.
“Those guys have played on a whole different level from last year,” he said.
Another key has been the emergence of senior Robert Powell at quarterback. At the start of the season, Powell and sophomore quarterback Tristan Jackson split time at the helm. Jackson then went down with an injury in week two and has recently come back, but now sees most of his time at receiver.
“Robert came in with not a lot of experience. He only played in one game last season. I think being a senior and this being his last go-around, he and the seniors have goals of making the playoffs and extending their season. I think (Powell) took that initiative in the offseason and became a leader,” Bellamy said. “Tristan is a young guy that can learn from a guy like Rob. … He has two years of eligibility left, and it’s great for him to sit back and learn from a guy like Robert.”
Along with the team learning on the fly, in a sense, so is Bellamy. He has only been a head coach for four seasons, all at West Bloomfield. At 34, he said he continues to try and improve.
“I put myself around some great football coaches. It’s been a learning experience, but I’m being patient,” he said. “I know everyone wants to look at wins and losses and make judgments, but as coaches, you see improvement that not everyone else sees.
“You see improvement in GPA, kids going to college, excitement about being on the team. As coaches, seeing those things and seeing them improve, that’s what it’s all about.”
Catch West Bloomfield against Pontiac High at 2 p.m. Oct. 19 in Pontiac.