'Smooth transition': Herstein works to bring winning ways to North Farmington
Farmington Hills — Jon Herstein was getting his exercise in Wednesday evening, overseeing his North Farmington football team during a 7-on-7 competition against Birmingham Groves.
Herstein was a longtime assistant coach under the legendary John Herrington at Farmington Hills Harrison, joining Herrington’s staff in 2007 after finishing his playing career at Wayne State.
Harrison’s doors closed for good earlier this month, and now multiple former Harrison players will continue their playing days at North Farmington.
Herrington was Harrison’s lone head football coach, starting the program in 1970 and guiding it to a state-record 443 victories and 13 state championships.
And Herstein was thrilled to have Herrington — now an assistant under Herstein — at the 7-on-7 event Wednesday. It was the first time Herrington was out in public in nearly two weeks, after being in the hospital for nearly a week and now recuperating from an AFib procedure.
Herstein, 36, feels ready for his first head coaching job. He has the bulk of the Harrison coaching staff with him, including defensive coordinator Dave Thorne, offensive assistant Mill Coleman, linebackers coach Doug Lemberg, special teams coach Eric Johnson and strength and conditioning coach Billy Slobin, along with Scott Fifield, who has been on North Farmington’s coaching staff the last 14 years.
“We have a good group of coaches,” Herstein said. “We’re all familiar with each other, even Scott Fifield who is a special ed teacher, so I’ve known him for a long time.
“It’s great to have John out here today. I know he’s still trying to find some energy. They thought he had pneumonia, then found out it was AFib. We want him to take it easy, but he wanted to come out and we’re thrilled to have him with us.”
North Farmington was 5-22 the last three years. Harrison advanced to the Division 3 state championship game two years ago, losing to Muskegon at Ford Field, and finished 8-4 last season, falling to Chelsea in a Division 4 regional final.
Herstein watched on Wednesday as junior Jacob Bousamra, a transfer from Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, and sophomore Aaron Rice, a transfer from Walled Lake Western, took turns at quarterback.
“Jacob’s probably a touch ahead,” Herstein said of Bousamra, who was impressive during the Rising Stars Camp at Grand Valley last month. “But Aaron has a lot of potential and if Aaron’s not playing quarterback he’ll be out there as a receiver.”
North Farmington also displayed a big target for the quarterbacks in 6-foot-3 senior Eddie Lenton. Other weapons include running back Myles Dreshen, who played last year at North Farmington, and Andrew Dooley, who will play fullback after playing linebacker at Harrison last season.
North Farmington also has a solid two-way player in tight end/linebacker Sylvon Brown, who was a key contributor for Harrison last season.
“We have a good group of players overall,” Herstein said. "We’re still trying to put them all in the right spots.”
Brown is ready to help Herstein and his staff put in place the winning culture they had at Harrison.
“As we progress and keep practicing I can see the culture from Harrison is starting to come over to North, which is good,” Brown said. “I can tell that everybody wants to win, but it’s just the question, 'Are you ready to put in the work that you have to do to win?' We’ll keep improving because there’s still work to be done.”
Jon Brunette, a senior linebacker/fullback, has played his entire high school career at North Farmington and likes the coaching staff.
“I think it’s a really good staff,” Brunette said. “It’s an improvement from last year. They work us hard. They’re more organized in the weight room and we’re getting bigger every day. We’re in better condition, too. I think we’ll be ready to go when the season gets here, and we’ll shock some people. Really, we knew each other in middle school so coming back together it was like a family reunion.”
Jevon Shaw, a former quarterback at Harrison several years ago, is happy Herstein has his chance to run his own program.
“It’s kind of bringing back old memories because it’s kind of the same playbook,” said Shaw, who is helping out as an intern. “I see a lot of talent on this team and I pretty much want to help these guys get to being a playoff team and winning games.”
And on Herstein?
“It’s his time,” Shaw said. “He spent a lot of years under Coach Herrington’s wings learning the schemes and the plays and things like that. Just his character, I think the kids feed off of that and they see a leader in Coach Herstein so they respect him in that aspect.”
Fifield plans to work with the offensive and defensive lines.
“It’s been a smooth transition,” Fifield said of the coaching staff and the merger of nearly a dozen Harrison players. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the guys in the Farmington Public Schools as teachers, especially Jon Herstein, being a special ed teacher and we kind of met through that. He’s doing well. I feel he’s adjusting well to head coaching life. It’s been fun working with them.”
Herstein has enjoyed having some of Harrison’s former players help out.
“We have Jevon Shaw helping out this summer, helping with weight and conditioning and some of our camps,” Herstin said. “Rod Heard (Northwestern) and Maverick Hansen (Central Michigan) have been here too, a whole bunch of guys from college who are just here helping during the summer to help us get better.
"It’s those relationships and building that love amongst one another, that’s part of the reason you get into coaching. Those guys love the program so much and wanted to come out and help.”