Dave Sofran takes the reins from legendary coach Al Fracassa at Birmingham Brother Rice. Sofran inherits a 22-game winning streak. (David Coates / Detroit News)
Bloomfield Hills — For the first time in more than four decades, Birmingham Brother Rice opened its fall football camp with a new look.
No, it’s not the offensive or defensive schemes that have changed. It’s the coach.
Dave Sofran, not the legendary Al Fracassa, led the three-time Division 2 state champion Warriors onto Fracassa Field at 8 a.m. Monday.
“I told the guys back in 1992 I had butterflies as an incoming freshman here,” said Sofran, who played for the now retired Fracassa 20 years ago at Brother Rice and coached under him for 14 years, the last three as offensive coordinator. “It’s the same type of butterflies (now).
“It’s natural to feel a little nervous. (But) Coach (Fracassa) gave me an opportunity in past years, delegated some stuff ... so it’s not like it’s ‘Oh, my God!’ ”
Fracassa owns the state record for career victories (430) in 53 seasons at Royal Oak Shrine and Brother Rice.
“Coach Fracassa will be missed since he’s a big part of the school and the football program,” said quarterback Alex Malzone (Michigan), who returns along with receiver Grant Perry. “He’s been a great role model to me and a great leader to me, but I feel Coach Sofran will do great things.”
Brother Rice takes a 22-game winning streak into its opener against Chicago Brother Rice on Aug. 30th at Wayne State.
Tom Hoover wasn’t about to miss the first day of practice at Allen Park.
So, eight days after suffering a heart attack and undergoing surgery, the 53-year-old coach took a seat in a golf cart to watch practice, which was run by offensive coordinator Tom Danosky and defensive coordinator Mike Dawson.
“I feel good, just a little dizzy from the medicine,” said Hoover, who had a stent inserted during surgery and was released from the hospital last Wednesday night. “I had no previous health issues, no history of heart disease in the family.
“You know as coaches, we all run around, yelling ‘Seize the day’ and all that stuff. We all need to take better care of ourselves, go right in if you have that chest pain. I feel very fortunate.”
Hoover, in his 21st season as Allen Park coach, also made an impact on his players with his appearance.
“You can tell he’s all in for us,” senior running back Manny Andrade said. “He’s always there for us. He’s doing everything he can to be with us so we’re working hard.”
The rain that hit Metro Detroit put a damper on some practices, but not Canton, where Tim Baechler began his 17th season with a five-hour practice that began outside and continued inside once the rain hit.
“We got all the offensive stuff done (before rain came),” he said. “Then, we came in and did some chalk talk with the defense and went into the gym and walked and talked about what we went over.”
The one thing Baechler, 136-41 at Canton, won’t do this fall camp is scrimmage this weekend.
In the past, Baechler scheduled scrimmages the first Saturday of practice. But a new Michigan High School Athletic Association rule prohibits him from doing that.
“The new rules say during two-a-days you can’t be on the field for more than five hours and the one hitting practice can’t be for more than three hours,” Baechler said. “Basically, it takes one day of full contact practice away.”
The new rule is for safety reasons.
Kevin Frederick knew he wanted the challenge.
That’s why he jumped at the chance to coach at Sterling Heights Stevenson, a program with a long history of winning that’s been down on its luck the past few years.
“We’re really excited to get this thing going,” said Frederick, 44-18 in six years at Whittemore-Prescott. “Everybody is ready to roll. These guys have to learn a new offense, and that’s going to be a struggle at times, but I’m confident we have smart enough kids to pick that up.”
Stevenson went 13-24 the past four seasons following the retirement of legendary coach Rick Bye in 2009.
Frederick, 35, is installing an uptempo offense the players are excited about.
“I like the change,” senior offensive lineman Zack Manolios said. “We want to be a better football team, and the line wants to be able to work as one unit.”
Said Frederick: “I see that we have the talent and desire to win. I believe the commitment is there. Our goal will always be to compete for a conference championship. ... Whether or not we’re ready right now, I can’t answer that.”
Rain forced Detroit Martin Luther King to take practice inside, but an NAACP program in the school gym left them watching film for about an hour.
“We only got 15 practices (before the season starts), so this is one we miss,” coach Dale Harvel said. “We only get two contact days, so it really knocks you down. ... We weren’t counting on this.”
Once they get going, Harvel believes his team has plenty of talented pieces — senior linebacker Tyriq Thompson (Michigan State), junior defensive back Jesse Johnson, junior cornerback/receiver Dontre Boyd and junior defensive end Leon Page — to turn the focus back on its program.
And that doesn’t include the addition of three transfers: senior offensive lineman Kyonta Stallworth (St Clair Shores South Lake; Michigan State), junior receiver Donnie Corley (Wyandotte Roosevelt) and junior quarterback Mikale Washington (San Diego).
“This is one of the most talented teams I’ve had based on kids with the ability to do things athletically,” said Harvel, entering his sixth season.