February 17, 2014 at 11:01 am

Tom Markowski

Prep Insider: MHSAA expected to adopt new safety rules for football

The new NFHS rule addressing 'targeting' may have come into play on this hit by Muskegon's Roland Sharp on Brother Rice's Brian Walker. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)

Recently, two organizations, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), have addressed the issue of concussions in football without using the word specifically.

The NFHS made a rule change (Rule 2-43) that addressed “targeting.” The rule states that “targeting is an act of taking aim and initiating contact to an opponent above the shoulders with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulders,” and the resulting penalty would be a 15-yard personal foul.

The NFHS further defines a “defenseless player” as “a player who, because of his physical position and focus of concentration, is especially vulnerable to injury.”

The MHSFCA formalized a proposal at its January Team Leadership Conference that would limit preseason practices to one “collision” practice per day and no more than two collision practices per week once the season starts.

Also, no single practice may exceed three hours and the total practice time may not exceed five hours.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association will follow the lead of the NFHS, and the MHSAA Representative Council is expected to pass the proposal from the MHSFCA either at its March or May meeting.

When asked about the NFHS rule change, a veteran official said officials throughout the state have in the past penalized players for “targeting” but having this rule clearly defined, in black and white, will aid in officials administering and enforcing rules that, hopefully, will make the game safer.

Walled Lake Western coach Mike Zdebski cautions that calling such a penalty, for hitting a defenseless player or “targeting,” is subjective and that high school officials do not have the luxury of looking at replays as do officials at the professional and collegiate levels.

Some coaches expressed concerns that the MHSFCA proposal on “collisions” will hinder coaches in teaching blocking and tackling technique in the preseason. Canton coach Tim Baechler, who uses the tight T-formation offense that’s dependent upon his linemen sustaining their blocks, said he doesn’t foresee a big change. He said he and his staff still will be able to teach technique even without player-to-player contact by using practice dummies.

As far as practice time, Zdebski said most coaches have used common sense when scheduling the length of practices. He said once the season starts he curtails the amount of contact he allows.

Zdebski won’t go as far as to say it’s much ado about nothing because, he said, there are some coaches who do go to extremes and those are the ones for whom this rule, should it be adopted, is intended.

Coaching carousel

Citing a desire to go in a different direction, Hamtramck superintendent Todd Niczay decided not to renew the contract of Emmett Long as football coach. Hamtramck ended last season 0-9 with 17 players in the program, and its defense allowed a school-record 482 points. The closest Hamtramck came to a victory was a 50-16 loss to Dearborn Heights Star International.

To Long’s credit he did his best to keep the program alive. Hamtramck hasn’t had a winning season since 1999 and has won 12 games since. Long organized fundraising efforts before last season that raised $5,000. The money went toward new uniforms and equipment.

An anonymous donor gave another $20,000 to the program and that money was used to purchase weight room equipment and make improvements to the weight room.

Long, who spent two years as head coach, said the program showed signs of improvement. He said the middle school team had 21 players and finished 6-2.

Niczay said a three-person committee was formed to review Long’s record and it was determined that Long’s services were no longer needed. Niczay said a new coach will be named soon.

Riverview football coach Jeff Stergalas resigned but will remain as athletic director. A former Dearborn Fordson head coach and Dearborn assistant, Stergalas took over at his alma mater in 2009. Riverview was 1-8 in ’08, won three games the next season and four the following. Riverview made the playoffs two of the last three seasons and Stergalas said the program, one of the proudest in the Downriver area, is back on track.

“I wanted to bring the program back and I did that,” Stergalas said. “Our JV was undefeated. Whoever takes over, he’ll know he’ll have the backing of the AD.”

A new coach has not been named.

Controlling emotions

By the beginning of January Alvin Ward had had enough. The director of athletics for the Detroit Public Schools decided he needed to do something to curb the altercations, some of which would lead to punches being thrown, that marred the competition.

Ward said no more to postgame handshakes between players and coaches, at all levels, girls and boys.

Watch the end of a basketball game, the semifinals last Friday, for example, and it’s awkward not to have the competing teams shake hands, embrace as a sign of sportsmanship.

Don’t blame Ward for this. Something has to be done to curb the violence. But something also has to be done to bring back the sportsmanship that’s missing.

Here’s a suggestion: Bring all of the teams together, girls and boys, for a Hoopfest of sorts to start the season. Hold is at one of the local schools, Western, Southeastern, it doesn’t matter, and hold it over two days. After the first four or five games have all of the players and coaches from those competing teams have a meal together in the cafeteria and have a representative from each team give a two-minute talk, in front of everyone, on what sportsmanship means.

Future star

Donnie Tillman won’t make all-state. He’ll likely not make the all-city team.

Tillman should make somebody’s all-freshman team this season and, if nothing else, he’ll be on the all-dirty-work team.

Tillman, Detroit Cass Tech’s 6-foot-6 post player, scored but two points in Friday’s 44-43 loss to Detroit Southeastern in the PSL semifinals, but don’t pay attention to that. Tillman’s presence inside was apparent in his 16 minutes of playing time. He more than held his own against one of the PSL’s top inside players, Southeastern’s Daryl Bigham. Tillman had seven blocks and eight rebounds and made few mental errors.

“He’s going to be outstanding,” Cass Tech coach David Dixon said. “He’ll be a Draymond Green (Saginaw, Michigan State, Golden State), LaDontae Henton (Lansing Eastern, Providence) type of player. We haven’t asked him to do a lot this year because of all the seniors we have, but he’ll be a leader for us.”

KLAA playoffs heat up

Bob Brugger has been a head coach for 16 years and he said his White Lake Lakeland team could be one of his best, physically and athletically.

Brugger is in his second stint as coach at Lakeland. He coached at Lakeland 11 years before taking over the program at Brighton for one season (2009-10). He returned to Lakeland the next season.

Lakeland (12-5, 8-2) tied for the Kensington Lakes Activities Association North Division title with Walled Lake Central and defeated Hartland, 44-26, in a KLAA quarterfinal on Thursday. Lakeland hosts Walled Lake Western tonight in a semifinal at 7 p.m.

Brugger’s teams hang their hat on defensive toughness and this team is no different. Just one team (Howell) has scored 50 points against Lakeland this year.

“We’re playing good defense,” Brugger said. “Our team is built; we’re physically strong. We have three solid post position players and we’ve capitalized on our athleticism. We’ve had more dunks this season than I can ever remember.”

It starts with center Brad Govan (6-4, 220), who started at tight end on the football team. Nick Troxell (6-4) is receiving interest from small colleges and Brugger said he’s “the best athlete we’ve ever had. He plays above the rim.”

Jake Menzel (6-4) is the best of what is a strong junior class. Menzel is shooting 69 percent from the field and is averaging seven points and seven rebounds.

Quote

“They practice here every day of the week. This game should have been played at (a neutral site).”

George Ward, Detroit Southeastern coach, on having to play a PSL semifinal against Detroit Cass Tech at Cass Tech

By the numbers

1 — Times Pershing and Southeastern have met in the PSL boys final

5 — Years since Pershing and Southeastern played for the PSL title

27 — Years since Cass Tech won the girls PSL title

Top performance

Tony Jackson

Warren Fitzgerald

The senior had 30 points in a 61-58 victory over Grosse Pointe South on Wednesday and had 19 in a 43-41 victory over New Baltimore Anchor Bay on Thursday as Fitzgerald (12-1, 9-0) took over first place in the MAC White.

tom.markowski@detroitnews.com

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