Saline High School hosted a 7-on-7 passing tournament Saturday morning and coaches were shocked with the news that Detroit King coach Dale Harvel had passed away at age 57 the previous night from a heart attack.
“I was stunned last night when I heard the news,” said Saline coach Joe Palka. “I just thought he was a great guy, great for the kids, done a lot for football in Detroit. I felt lucky to have been able to deal with him and know him and be in the same coaching circle.”
Harvel was defensive coordinator at King when the Crusaders won the state championship in 2007, then took over as head coach the following year. He guided them to a 64-25 record, seven straight state playoff appearances, three PSL titles and a Division 2 state title last year, finishing 14-0 with a 40-38 comeback win over Lowell in the championship game when Armani Posey found Donnie Corley for a 39-yard TD pass on the game’s final play.
Posey, who will play at Bowling Green this fall, was emotional when talking of Harvel on the phone Saturday morning. He received a call from King assistant coach Terel Patrick telling him Harvel collapsed and was taken to the hospital.
Harvel was overseeing a 7-on-7 tournament at King Friday night when he was stricken.
“I got a call from Coach Patrick saying Coach Harvel had collapsed while they were having 7-on-7 and was taken to the hospital, but was fighting and looked like he’d make it,” Posey said. “He called about 45 minutes later – called Donnie (Corley) and me saying he had died.”
Corley was King’s best player last season, the No. 1 player on The Detroit News Blue Chip list and now a freshman at Michigan State.
“RIP to one of the best high school coaches out there,” Corley wrote on Twitter. “We gonna keep balling for you.”
Posey added: “It’s so tragic. He had just talked to me about making sure I handled my business, did the right things. He was always big about education. He knew what he was talking about, always saying the right things in his little speeches to me. It was always about the little things that ended up being so important.”
Harvel showed his confidence in Posey when inserting the safety / receiver to quarterback in Week No. 4 last season. Posey responded by throwing for 2,566 yards and 25 TD with just four interceptions, including a state finals-record 383 yards and 5 TD.
Harvel suffered a heart attack at age 55 during a PSL game on Sept. 27, 2014, saying he had four blockages and had two stents put in. He also had said he suffered from high blood pressure.
Harvel wasn’t out for long, just missing a few games before returning to coach in the PSL playoffs.
“It was amazing, just amazing that he had come back so quickly, just showing his dedication to the kids,” Detroit Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said of Harvel on Saturday. “He seemed fine when we talked yesterday morning. I got a text from one of our assistant coaches that Dale had passed away. It’s just tragic.”
After Cass Tech swept King in 2014, including a one-sided win in the PSL title game, King rebounded in 2015 with a pair of thrilling victories – 31-28 in overtime in Week No. 5, then 27-25 in the PSL title game.
Harvel was in great spirits during conversations I had with him Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week. On Wednesday one of the topics was his quarterback from a year ago, the promising sophomore El Julian Jordan, who was replaced by Posey. Harvel said Jordan had transferred to Detroit Central, but felt he could still be successful if he handled his business in the classroom.
Education was always big with Harvel, and last year he spoke with pride about his daughter, who was attending Western Michigan, working on her master’s degree.
Harvel texted me Friday morning about the 7-on-7 competition. We talked later in the day and said we’d talk more at the Detroit Sports Commission’s Prep Kickoff Classic Preview. We joked a bit and I remember smiling as I hung up.
Unfortunately, that planned visit with Harvel will never take place.
Dale Harvel helped countless people during his life. He will be sorely missed.