FERNDALE - When Oscar Olejniczak took over as head football coach of his alma-mater University of Detroit Jesuit back in February, he said that he was going to make them winners.
And winners they certainly are.
After making the state playoffs for the first time since 2001 this season, UofD Jesuit has reeled off two straight playoff wins, including a 20-14 win over Oak Park (Mich.) in a district final on Friday night.
"This win is huge, this win was history making," said UofD Jesuit junior quarterback Ryan Brand. "This is our first time in 12 years making the playoffs."
"They said we wouldn't get past the first round, we did that, they said we wouldn't beat Oak Park, and of course we did that. So I'm just proud of the team."
Brand must have eaten his raisins this morning, as he was arguably the player of the game, leading his team to victory. He finished 10-19 passing for 97 yards and a touchdown, and led everyone in rushing with 82 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.
The Cubs first touchdown of the game was practically gift wrapped to them by Oak Park. The Knights defense forced UofD Jesuit into a three and out, but failed to field the punt after it hit an Oak Park player. UofD Jesuit (7-4) recovered the ball on Oak Park's 13-yard line, and two players Brand scored on a quarterback keeper for the 7-0 lead with 8:34 left in the first.
The Oak Park offense features one of the best juniors in the state in running back John Kelly, but neither one was able to get anything going against UofD Jesuit's defense.
Out of six offensive possessions for Oak Park in the first half, four ended in them punting, and the other two were turnovers. Kelly finished with 55 yards rushing on 14 carries.
"It was just one of those seasons," said Oak Park head coach Greg Carter after the game. "We just weren't able to put things together to beat a good team. At the end of the game we run out of bounds short, and we don't get an inch, so they deserved to win."
A 19-yard passing touchdown from Brand to wide receiver Jeran Kirkland with 3:00 left before the half made it 14-0, yet Oak Park still remained in the game despite their offensive woes. Fast forward to the fourth quarter, as neither team was able to score in the third, Oak Park was finally able to get on the board.
Set up by a 47-yard passing play from Chauncey Lowman to Miles Daniels to the UofD Jesuit 8-yard line, junior running back Ricardo Brown would punch it in two plays later from 5-yards out. A two-point conversion try was successful, and Oak Park trailed 14-8 with 6:59 remaining.
UofD Jesuit got the ball back at the 6:53 mark, and though they failed to convert a 4th down on the Oak Park 26-yard line, that drive ate up 4:40 of clock.
Oak Park (6-5) had one more opportunity to either tie or win the game from their own 30-yard line with 1:47 seconds remaining, and no timeouts. The Knights were able to move into Cubs territory with big plays by Lowman and Kelly, but their drive would eventually stall once again.
On a 4th and 1 play with just :29.6 seconds remaining, Kelly was stopped short of the first down marker, sealing the 14-8 victory for UofD Jesuit.
"The win goes out to the defense," Brand said after the game. "The offense couldn't get a lot going, and I take responsibility for that. The defense didn't lose any faith in the team, and they kept fighting."