Rod Beard and Dave Goricki preview the 2018 high school football season The Detroit News
Editor's note: The Detroit News dropped in on six teams Monday, the first day of high school football practice, including Farmington Hills Harrison.
Farmington Hills — Ben Williams had trouble sleeping Sunday night, knowing the start of practice was set to begin the next morning.
Williams plans to do all he can to make Farmington Hills Harrison’s final football season a special one. The school will be closing its doors for the final time following the conclusion of the 2018-19 school year.
Williams, a senior athlete, showed his 4.4 speed last season when he returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown in the Division 3 state championship game loss to Muskegon at Ford Field.
Harrison has made 18 state title game appearances, winning 13 championships (both are state records), the last coming in 2010.
“I couldn’t sleep all night, just up thinking about how this was the last doubles (practices) Harrison is ever going to have,” Williams said. “It’s truly a blessing to be able to come out here and give 110 percent all the time to make us better.”
Williams says he'll be playing "pretty much everywhere" this season.
“Coach (Dave) Thorne (the team's defensive coordinator) and I have a little joke going because people ask me my position, and I tell them slash," Williams said Monday. "After all, I’m a kick returner, slash punt returner, slash running back, slash receiver. I should be able to fill in wherever the team needs me.
“There’s no excuses. I need to go out there and do my thing, double-digit touchdowns and I’m trying to get 1,000 yards in anything I do, rushing or receiving, because I have to let people know what type of talent I am.”
Williams did everything possible to make himself better during the offseason, taking part in several camps, including one at Wayne State and another at Bowling Green while also participating in all of Harrison’s 7-on-7 events.
John Herrington, starting his 49th — and final season — at Harrison was excited and optimistic on Day 1. He had 48 players on the field, four of them freshmen.
“It’s great, everybody loves the first day,” said Herrington, who started Harrison's program in 1970. “Next Friday, when the full pads go on, that will be an even better day, but this one’s good.”
Herrington was smiling because he has multiple Division 1 players back, including 1,500-yard running back/cornerback Rod Heard (Northwestern), along with 6-foot-4, 270-pound offensive tackle Maverick Hansen (Central Michigan) and a tight end in Sylvon Brown who runs a 4.7.
Heard will be at quarterback this season, and will play running back when Dave Hiser takes snaps, with Williams being a threat wherever he lines up.
“I think Ben will be a really good threat for us from both tailback and swingback,” Herrington said. “We don’t know exactly what we’re going to do on defense with him yet, but I think Ben’s going to be really good. Ben and Rod are the keys to our offense.”
Hansen is looking forward to seeing how good Williams will be.
“I expect big things from Ben, just showed me a lot of things that he’s capable of last year and hope to see a lot more of that this year,” Hansen said. “We have an athletic line, very explosive, lean, not heavy where we can run gassers with the skilled positions.”
Hiser knows Harrison has the weapons to make Herrington — the state’s all-time winningest coach (435 wins, 10-4 last season) — pleased at the end of the season, and the end of his career.
“Ben’s going to be a big weapon for us,” said Hiser, who is also an outstanding kicker. “He has a lot of speed and he’ll be a huge part of our offense. Obviously, he won’t be starting tailback with Rod Heard playing that spot, but we'll find a place to use him for sure.
“I just expect to go out there and play well and help our team be successful to give Coach (Herrington) something he’ll remember and something he can look back at and be proud of.”