On a historic night that couldn’t have been scripted better for the Farmington Hills Harrison community, this was about the only thing that went wrong.
After Harrison beat Berkley, 39-0, to make coach John Herrington the state’s all-time winningest football coach with 431 victories, the celebration on the field included the presence of three separate balloons shaped in the numbers 4, 3 and 1.
As the team lined up for photos with Herrington, a big banner with the coach’s picture on it to commemorate the milestone was unfurled for the photos when disaster struck.
The No. 4 and 3 balloons slipped out of hands and went skyward.
One player made a leap in a last-ditch effort to save them, but it wasn’t to be.
Off went the balloons into the night sky, but the players’ soon realized the symbolism of the No. 1 balloon that was still with them.
“All we need is 1,” one player shouted.
“It’s all about 1,” added another.
Indeed it was, as on Harrison’s homecoming night that saw a king and queen crowned, Herrington officially became the king of Michigan high school football coaching as he moved to No. 1 on the wins list, one ahead of former Brother Rice head coach Al Fracassa.
Herrington, 76, has been the school’s only coach since it opened in 1970 and has led the Hawks to 13 state championships, the most of any school in state history.
When the game ended, it was the predictable mob scene of jubilation at midfield.
Past players, alums, parents and current players gathered around for pictures and got in long lines to congratulate Herrington and to also catch up with Bob Sutter, Herrington’s longtime friend and Harrison’s defensive coordinator from 1973-2006.
Herrington and the team posed for pictures as the public address announcer paid tribute to not only the football coach, but also the former teacher at the school who impacted lives away from the field.
On the scoreboard, the time read 4:31 to commemorate the achievement and memories overflowed from all of Herrington’s former players who were able to attend.