The road is long, but the Titans are determined

Tom Tigani

It’s still looking like a long road back to the top for the Southgate Unified hockey team, but third-year Coach Rick Butler is undaunted.

He played for Southgate Anderson from 1989 to 1992, and assistant coach Scott Stewart played for the Titans from 1987 to 1989 and was a member of a state championship team. Rob Beaver also is an assistant coach, and Rick’s son, Jacob Butler, played four years in the program and is helping coach this year.

As a coach, the elder Butler’s story has been a little different.  He went 0-26 his first year and 3-23 last year.

“We’re trying to rebuild the whole program,” he said.

Southgate merged with Monroe and Monroe Jefferson last season, an experience Butler called “a great year” despite the less-than-stellar record. 

This year’s Southgate Unified team has six players from the two Monroe schools; only four players on the entire roster are seniors.

“Combining kids from both cities was a learning process,” he said. “But they don’t have a rink and they wanted to play, so we brought them onto our team.”

Butler likes the work ethic of this year’s squad.

“I call them a blue-collar team,” he said. “They do the dirty stuff and get their jobs done.”

They’ve played four games so far, losing the last two 8-0 and 6-5. In the latter game, his team took 35 minutes in penalties and was missing a couple of players who were out for Thanksgiving vacation. Despite those things, the Titans were down 6-1 at one point and came back to make it a one-goal game.

“If we’d stayed out of box, we’d have been all right,” Butler said

“We’re looking ahead, we’re looking good and we’re just working our butts off,” Butler said. “As coaches we tell them how we played and how we want to get back there. We reiterate that this is how it’s done; we’ve just got to work.”

Butler and his staff are showing his team old VHS tapes from their own playing days so that players can see what success looks like, but are keeping their expectations in check.

“It’s going to take time,” he said. “It’s a process.”

Coaches soon will start giving some chalk talks and have booked some community service gigs so players can do some team bonding. Previous service included handing out gloves and hats in Detroit’s Clark Park; this year they will work with homeless shelters and shovel snow for elderly residents.

Team leaders this year include seniors Dominic Beaver Jackson Longfellow, Jacob Zaddock and Gavin Buchanan from Monroe, along with junior Ryan Klotz.

“They know what the rules are and what they have to do,” Butler said. “Those guys take care of the off-ice stuff for us and are great in the room. They help the younger players with lockers and show them how things are done.”

Goalie Kyle Sutherland has been standing on his head for his team, facing an average of 35 to 40 shots a game — and he’s only a sophomore.

“He will steal some games for us,” Butler said.

Sophomore Ashton Petrarca leads the team in points.

“He’s got so much talent,” Butler said. “He’s going to be a leader coming up. It’s just a great bunch of kids. There’s no arguments, and they’re always helping each other.

Butler believes that despite the growing pains, the results will eventually come, and he’s hoping fans will come out and support his hardworking team as the rebuild progresses.

“We just want to get the community out here to watch these boys,” he said. “They love playing in front of the fans.”

2019 Southgate Unified
Boys’ Hockey Team

8 Dominic Beaver
21 Nathaniel Bess
14 Gavin Buchanan
22 Joshua Calhoun
6 Dominic Carmouche
5 Connor Giles
25 Marcus King
7 Ryan Klotz
2 Garrett LaBeau
13 Jackson Longfellow
18 Gabriel Obourn
12 Garrett Obourn
9 Ashton Petrarca
23 Dominik Sudak
1 Kyle Sutherland
17  Jacob Zaddock

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