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Rod Beard and Dave Goricki preview the 2018 high school football season The Detroit News

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Editor's note: The Detroit News dropped in on six teams Monday, the first day of high school football practice, including Grosse Pointe North.

Grosse Pointe Woods — For the first time since 1980, Grosse Pointe North started football season without Frank Sumbera as head coach.

After more than 200 football victories, Sumbera, who was also the baseball coach, said he was forced out in June by the North administration due to parental complaints.

Sumbera was replaced by an experienced assistant, and current North hockey coach, Joe Drouin.

“I was with Frank for eight years (as an assistant), then it was time for me to experience other coaching positions at other schools,” Drouin said Monday before practice. “I learned a lot from Frank. I respect a lot of the traditions, a lot of the values that he had, and one of the things I want to do is build upon the good foundation that he set up.”

Drouin will rely on senior leaders like right guard Zack Melendez to maintain continuity between the coaching staffs. Melendez had Drouin as an English teacher his freshman year, so the two already were acquainted.

“I expect him to have everything under control,” Melendez said. “We’ve been talking a lot lately, and he’s very organized and on top of things.”

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Senior running back and outside linebacker Ka’Ron Henderson also had Drouin as a teacher when he was a sophomore taking a weight-training class.

“He’s a good coach,” Henderson said. “He’s a lot more organized. He looks like he knows what he’s doing.”

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In order to win over the fan base, the most important thing Drouin will have to do is beat archrival Grosse Pointe South, like Sumbera did last year in a double-overtime thriller, a game Melendez can easily recall.

“I remember everything,” Melendez said. “I watch the film all the time. I’ve probably watched it hundreds of times. Every time I get bored I pull it up on my phone.”

Drouin has been an assistant coach on both teams over his career, but he took last season off from coaching football. He downplayed the importance of the game, mentioning that his team is a month behind others because his hiring came so recently.

“That’s Week 8 for us, and we want to approach it as business as usual,” Drouin said. “It’s going to be a Friday night in October (Oct. 12), and we’ll see where the team is. It’s a Friday night with just a little more meaning.”

North kicks the season off against Warren Michigan Collegiate on Friday, Aug. 24.

Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer.

 

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