Dearborn Fordson coach Fouad Zaban talks about the upcoming 2019 football season. Eric Coughlin, The Detroit News
Monday was the first day of high school football practice in Michigan and The Detroit News visited a few area teams. Here is the report from Dearborn Fordson.
Dearborn — Detroit skyscrapers can be seen in the hazy distance down Ford Road from Dearborn Fordson High.
Detroit Cass Tech sits among those skyscrapers, and for four straight seasons its powerhouse football team got the better of Fordson in the state playoffs. That changed in 2018, when Fordson took the familiar trip downtown and upended No. 1-ranked Cass Tech in the district finals, 41-14.
Fast forward from then to Fordson's first practice of 2019 on Monday, and coach Fouad Zaban had all but forgotten about last season's program-defining triumph.
"It's a new season and a different group of guys," Zaban said. "We've got to make sure we concentrate on us and make sure we’re doing things the right way and see how the season goes. Ultimately, it is back to level zero and we have to build things back up and be sure that we’re not living in the past."
Gone are heroes from last season's district final like quarterback Hussein Ajami and wide receiver Ahmed Allamy, who both graduated, and in step another class of aspiring leaders like senior offensive linemen Ali Baiz and Ibrahim Ahmad.
Dearborn Fordson senior offensive lineman Ali Baiz talks about replicating the team's success in 2019. Eric Coughlin, The Detroit News
"It's only going to go up from here," Baiz said when describing Fordson football. "We want to win a state championship. We've got to lead more and show the younger kids how to do it, just like they (last season's seniors) showed us."
Finishing 10-2 with a loss in the regional final to the eventual Division 1 state champion would be considered a great season for almost any team, but Fordson's new crop think they could go further in 2019.
"We've got a lot more to prove," Ahmad said. "We've been doing more team bonding, hanging out more. We're bonded much more closely together. This year's about perfecting the craft."
It remains to be seen whether Fordson and Cass Tech will meet again in the state playoffs, but Fordson will get a chance to avenge its only loss of the regular season from a year ago when it hosts Belleville on Oct. 4.
Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer.
Dearborn Fordson senior lineman Ibrahim Ahmad talks about the upcoming 2019 season after the team's success in 2018. Eric Coughlin, The Detroit News