October 7, 2013 at 1:00 am

Tom Markowski

Prep Insider: Wins nice but there's more to being the best football coach in the state

Lowell's Noel Dean, here with this team at the 2011 Division 2 championships, is one of eight nominated from Michigan for national coach of the year honors. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)

USA Today missed the big picture.

Measuring the greatness of a high school football coach by wins and losses is so far removed from the career choices that coaches make that it diminishes the work of thousands of coaches who aren’t motivated by career victories and state championships, but by molding boys into young men.

USA Today is sponsoring a contest to determine the best high school football coach in the country. Eight were selected from each state and the District of Columbia, a total of 408.

The eight selected from Michigan are Herb Brogan of Jackson Lumen Christi, Noel Dean of Lowell, Al Fracassa of Birmingham Brother Rice, John Herrington of Farmington Hills Harrison, Tom Mach of Detroit Catholic Central, Ralph Munger of Rockford, Mendon’s John Schwartz and Peter Stuursma of East Grand Rapids.

Five have the most victories of all active coaches; a sixth (Schwartz) is ninth.

Dean’s overall record is 196-57. His teams have won three state titles and reached the finals two other times. Stuursma is in his 13th season at East Grand Rapids and is 145-25, including seven state titles.

Win, win, win. This isn’t the NFL. It’s high school football.

No one questions the success these coaches have had on the field and the positive impact they’ve had on so many lives.

What about the thousands of other coaches who are dismissed from this poll because they haven’t had the amount of success on the field as the above mentioned have? Just because a coach has a team that finishes below .500 doesn’t mean he or she is not a good coach. That person could well be doing a better job than a coach whose team finishes undefeated.

People do not become high school coaches to win state championships or 300 games. The numbers on a scoreboard are temporary. A person becomes a coach for many of the same reasons someone becomes a teacher and that’s to have an opportunity to have positive effect on a young person’s life.

Jim Sparks is the head coach at Clawson, and a regional director for the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association and its All-Star Game chairman. He said he became involved in athletics to remain competitive and become involved with student-athletes, and that a coach’s success should not be measured by victories alone.

“That’s a huge oversight,” he said. “Success on the field is a byproduct of the mission statement we impress upon our players. And that’s to be respectful, on the field, in the classroom and in the community. The first one is the easiest. Our players have to be accountable in the classroom.

“We’re all competitive. On Friday nights that’s what I think about most. Coaches devote four months of their lives to coach. They have to be unselfish and willing to spend time away from their families. We demand that our players be good people. When a parent asks me why they should have their child play at Clawson, I tell them that I guarantee from 3-6 p.m. that they will be associated with good people.

“I look at coaches like Harold Penn at Mount Clemens and Andre Harlan at Detroit Western. They don’t have the resources many coaches do and they do a tremendous job. I’m not discounting what those coaches, like Herrington, have done. I owe a lot to John. He’s helped me become a better coach. But you don’t get all of those wins without doing all of the things I mentioned.”

Starting fast

This is Chris Sikora’s first season as a head coach and his Berkley team has won three of four and could become a factor in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division in the near future.

Two weeks ago, Berkley (3-3, 3-2) surprised Auburn Hills Avondale, 34-31, and on Friday it defeated Ferndale, 21-7.

“I think we’re the fastest team in our division,” Sikora said. “We have tremendous team speed. We played well in the first half (led 21-6) against Avondale. It was a win (against Ferndale) but I didn’t think we played well.”

Held to 32 yards against Avondale, senior running back Alec Sanom (5-foot-7, 185 pounds) did play well against Ferndale, rushing for 234 yards on just 15 carries. Last season, Sanom was second in Oakland County in touchdowns (16). He’s rushed for 845 yards and six touchdowns this season.

Closing the gap

Allen Park played poorly in its opener and got pounded by Melvindale, 40-13. Since then, coach Tom Hoover’s team has improved steadily and last Friday pulled off perhaps the biggest upset in the Downriver League.

On homecoming Allen Park (4-2) trailed Taylor Truman (5-1), 14-8, before coming back to win 21-14.

Truman, which runs its offense out of the full-house T-formation, averaged 53 points a game coming in and had scored 50 or more four times.

“They try to knock you out in the first round like Mike Tyson,” Hoover said. “They try to demoralize you. They scored on the first drive and were up 8-0. At halftime I told my players we were in good shape. They had a goal-line stand in the third quarter and I thought maybe our kids would get down after that.

“We’ve come a long way since that Melvindale game. It’s fun watching these kids growing. The place was packed (Friday night). The homecoming just added to the fanfare.”

Quarterback Nick Fulton threw two touchdown passes to Antonio Reviere, including one from 25 yards out that was the game-winner with 1:30 left.

Allen Park, which lost to Truman twice last season, greatly improved its playoff chances with the victory. Two more victories and it would be a playoff team for the fourth consecutive season.


Battle Creek Lakeview (6-0) allowed its first points of the season on Friday when it defeated Marshall, 37-14.

... Forty years ago, one of the best teams in state history recorded nine shutouts. Saginaw Arthur Hill, coached by George Ihler, dominated its opponents (443-0) in 1973 and won the mythical state championship with a 9-0 record. Ihler and many of his former players, like running back Terry Eurick, held their 40th reunion this past weekend. Eurick went on to play for Notre Dame, where he captained the 1978 national championship team. Notre Dame defeated Texas and Earl Campbell, 38-10, in the Cotton Bowl that season to win the title.

... In 1995 Dearborn opened the season with 10 consecutive shutouts before losing to South Lyon, 24-0, in a Class A regional final.

Top performance

Will Bobek

St. Clair Shores Lake Shore quarterback

Bobek, a junior, returned to the lineup and completed 15 of 23 attempts for 245 yards and three touchdowns as Lake Shore (3-3) defeated Sterling Heights, 46-10.

By the numbers

24-- Touchdown passes thrown by Macomb L’Anse Creuse North’s Sean Koski this season

67 -- Teams that have clinched a playoff spot

86 -- Teams one victory away from clinching a playoff spot


“There are brighter roads ahead. This train is on the right track.”

Jamie Grignon, Lincoln Park coach, on his team’s 34-20 victory over Taylor Kennedy on Friday that ended the state’s longest losing streak at 66 games


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