The calendar says it’s still summer, but the weather feels more like fall. The cool temperatures this week fit well with the start of a new season in high school football.
Two-a-day practices are done and teams begin keeping score when the campaign officially kicks off Thursday night.
In a pair of OAA crossover games, North Farmington will play host to Pontiac that evening, and Farmington will be on the road at Royal Oak.
A pair of perennial state powers clash Friday night when East Kentwood invades Buller Field to do battle with 13-time state champion Harrison.
Both teams were state semifinalists last year – the Falcons, who lost to eventual champion and OAA power Clarkston, in Division 1 and the Hawks in Division 2.
Both teams lost a lot of players, but John Herrington, who begins his 46th season as Harrison’s head coach, anticipates a great game from both teams.
“The fact their coach called and wanted to play tells me they’re going to be pretty good,” Herrington said. “Tony Kimbrough has his program going in the right direction.
“They have some of the best track athletes in the state, so I’m sure that converts to football speed, too. They’re an ‘I’ team but also a spread team, something like us.”
Despite heavy personnel losses and talk of the school closing, Herrington and his staff have been busy preparing a new team. Opponents can expect tough competition from the Hawks again.
“I think they’ll know we’ll be ready to play,” Herrington said. “I think everybody is worried about their own teams and not concerned about what we’re doing one way or the other.”
New set of blockers
Harrison’s offensive line had to be completely rebuilt, but line coach Jon Herstein believes the new lineup he has assembled is ready to do the job.
It includes left tackle Lindon Ivezic (6-3, 245), left guard Daney Ammoun (6-0, 275), center Anthony Slatin (6-0, 190), right guard Demond Young (6-0, 210) and right tackle Khalid Kareem (6-5, 260). All are seniors except for Ivezic, who is a junior.
“I think the offensive line has really come along,” Herrington said. “We’re limited in the number of bodies we have, but we have some good size and the kids are improving daily.”
Herstein added it’s a highly intelligent group with a combined grade-point average of nearly 3.5. Ivezic and Kareem are 4.0 students.
Kareem, who committed to Alabama, played mostly defense last year. He’s gotten bigger and improved his conditioning at the same time, according to Herstein.
“He’s definitely the leader of our linemen,” he said. “The kids all look up to him. He doesn’t have an ego or that.
“He approaches each day trying to get better, trying to get the team better, because he is a fierce competitor. He really does want to win more than anything else.”
Young also has experience at defensive tackle and will rotate with Kareem, Ammoun and senior Paul Phillips (6-0, 240).
The noseguard will be sophomore Rapana Filemu (5-9, 180). The outside linebackers are senior Tommy Williams (6-5, 200), who also starts at tight end, and sophomore Ovie Oghoufo (6-3, 195).
With senior Jared Char sidelined with an injury, the mix of inside linebackers includes juniors Guam Lee (5-9, 200), Matt Hays (6-1, 185), Jimmy O’Connor (6-0, 190), Ty Armstrong (6-1, 190) and Braxton Mitchell (5-11, 175).
Seniors David Vinsky, Jamison Scarber and Anthony Giovanni and junior Kordell Agee will start in the secondary, but others will play there, too, since those four also play offense.
“When you have Khalid and players like that, you’re not hurting for talent,” Herrington said. “We think the offensive line is coming along, but we’re probably ahead on defense over the offense right now.”