Editor’s note: This is the second in a series on Farmington Hills Harrison’s final football season.
Farmington Hills — Rod Heard was in unfamiliar territory on Wednesday night at the John Herrington Sports Complex, throwing passes for Farmington Hills Harrison in 7-on-7 competition.
Heard was known as an outstanding cornerback as he headed into his junior season a year ago, but he added a new position – running back. He played that position well, rushing for 1,538 yards and 23 TDs while continuing his stout defense and helping Harrison reach the Division 3 state championship game at Ford Field, a loss to powerhouse Muskegon.
Harrison will be looking to make another long postseason run in its final season of football, with the school set to close its doors for good following the 2018-19 school year.
With quarterback Noah Hendricks moving on with graduation, the door has been open for the job and Heard is expected to be operating the offense at times, including from the wildcat formation, with senior David Hiser – also a standout kicker – and junior Max Martin in the mix.
Previous report: Farmington Hills Harrison football gears up for last hurrah
“It’s definitely an adjustment,” said Heard. “I’ve never played quarterback before. I threw a couple of good passes (Wednesday), but I know that I still need to work on my arm, my mechanics and setting my feet the right way so I can get the ball downfield accurately.
“Of course, Coach Herrington is coaching me up and I have more opportunities. This is just my first one (7-on-7) and I’ve got some work done. I know I can get it done, especially since I made the move to running back, so I know I have the ability. It’s all about putting in the work and getting better every day.
“It’s fun being able to play multiple positions. I just played linebacker and line and stuff like that in Little League. When I first got into high school, that’s when I first started playing DB. But getting to play running back, now playing quarterback and receiver, is definitely fun.”
Strong skill players
Heard & Co. will have multiple weapons to work with in underrated running back Ben Williams and junior tight end Sylvon Brown.
Brown has confidence in Heard’s ability to get things done at quarterback.
“Rod is a real versatile player and as he keeps doing it he’ll get more comfortable at it,” said Brown. “It’s our last season and we want to go back to that championship game and win this year. We have a lot to prove. Even though this is our last year we’re still Harrison and we take a lot of pride in that.”
Said Heard: “I definitely need to complete enough passes when I’m in to keep the defense honest – that and not throw any picks.”
Herrington said he has used the wildcat in past years.
“We did it with (Aaron) Burbridge and a couple of guys, but not much,” said Herrington. “We’re going to have to run some spread offense with him back there. He hasn’t really thrown the ball much. I think he’ll be good throwing on the run. I still want to use him at tailback some because he’s such a great running back, but he can run out of the wildcat.
“Max Martin really threw the ball well today. David Hiser is a great team leader and a heck of a kicker. He kicked for us last year.”
Hiser is certain to be a weapon even if he doesn’t win the starting quarterback job. He has been to multiple kicking camps since his junior high days and kicked a 59-yard field goal in Kohl’s Showcase near Chicago recently.
Hiser has talked to GLIAC schools but has yet to commit.
Reunion in the works
Herrington hopes Harrison will compete in Division 4 with a lower enrollment number from this past school year.
“It will be interesting to see whether we’ll be Division 3 or 4,” Herrington said. “We’ll play wherever they put us, but we were 849 last year and we’ll have 650, maybe 630. They (MHSAA) just go with the count from February. I guess it’s just a black and white thing with them even though I told them it’s a special situation with us.”
Harrison is planning a program-ending reunion for Nov. 25, the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
“That’s when a lot of kids are in town, kind of a final thing," said Herrington. "I hate to think about it. I’m not going to think about that stuff all year, it would drive me nuts. I’m just going to concentrate on this team.”
Herrington has been at Harrison since it opened its doors in 1970 and is entering his 49th season with a state-record 435 wins and 13 state championships.