Farmington Hills — Jon Herstein has done an outstanding job in his first year as head coach at North Farmington with help from a lot of his friends, including the state’s all-time winningest coach John Herrington.
Herstein was a former longtime assistant coach at Farmington Hills Harrison under Herrington. When the school closed its doors permanently last June, the majority of the coaching staff went a few miles up the road to North Farmington with Herstein taking on the role of head coach for the first time.
The move has been a good one for all involved, including other former assistant coaches at Harrison like Mill Coleman and Dave Thorne.
Herstein & Co. inherited a program that had gone 5-22 the previous three years and has quickly turned it around with a 5-0 record following Friday’s 56-20 victory over Auburn Hills Avondale, which also pushed its record to 4-0 in Oakland Activities Association Blue Division play.
“Our coaches believe in us and we believe in ourselves and the atmosphere is different,” said senior running back/cornerback Myles Gresham, who has played his entire high school career at North Farmington and rushed 19 times for 101 yards and a touchdown against Avondale. “They came in here and showed us that football is football, and that every time we step on this field and every time we step in the weight room we need to be focused and we need to be serious.
“They just came in and told us that we need to have a winning attitude and last year that just wasn’t there, no disrespect to any of the coaches last year. They just brought their tradition from Harrison to North and mixed it in with our tradition and I love it.”
Gresham, a 6-foot, 180-pounder with 4.4 speed, has yet to receive a Division I or II offer, but has received interest from Hillsdale College for track.
So, what are North Farmington’s strengths?
“Offensively, I think our passing game is strong and defensively I think we play sound defense all the way around,” Herstein said of junior quarterback Jacob Bousamra, who has completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,302 yards and 17 touchdowns with three interceptions. “He’s a big kid and he throws the ball well. He’s accurate and can throw the deep ball well. He’s smart and he loves football.
“We’re happy with the start, but there’s still some areas to improve in. We’re going to try and make the corrections and try to get a little bit better this week.”
Herrington, who won a state record 443 games and 13 state championships at Harrison, has high praise for Bousamra, a transfer from Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook.
When asked if he could compare Bousamra to former standout quarterback Drew Stanton, who played for Harrison in the early 2000s and went on to play for Michigan State, the Lions and four other NFL teams, Herrington replied: “He’s going to be big time. He has a strong arm just like Drew, just as accurate, but not as mobile. I could see him playing in the Big Ten, but definitely the MAC.”
Bousamra has multiple weapons to work with, including 6-4, 200-pound receiver Eddie Lenton, sophomore Jasper Deeler and Gresham coming out of the backfield.
“Jacob has a very strong arm and our linemen are working hard and getting better every single day,” Gresham said. “Really, we have a lot of strengths. Our defense is good at locking up the pass and the run and our linebackers are amazing.”
Sounds like North Farmington has the recipe for success.
West Bloomfield's instant classic
West Bloomfield — ranked No. 1 in The News preseason rankings — came back from a 31-17 deficit with less than 2 minutes left in the regulation to earn a 59-52 win over No. 10 Lake Orion in four overtimes in the OAA Red Division showdown.
“CJ Harris made some big time plays for us,” West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy said of his Ohio-bound quarterback who rushed for 190 yards and threw for 215 yards and five touchdowns, including a 10-yard TD pass to Ethan Bunch with 12 seconds left in regulation.
“Donovan Edwards scored on a 3-yard run with 1:30 left to pull us within 31-24, then we tried an onside kick and Lake Orion recovered near midfield. Still, I was confident because we had three timeouts.”
West Bloomfield (4-1, 3-0) had all of its timeouts. Michigan-bound linebacker Cornell Wheeler stopped Lake Orion (4-1, 3-1) on a fourth-and-1 play with 1:10 left, giving the ball back to Harris, who directed the tying touchdown drive that was capped by his pass to Bunch.
“CJ was due for this game and we needed him to air it out,” Bellamy said. “We got to overtime and then it was a blur, just an instant classic. Cornell Wheeler might be the best player in the state, Cornell and Muskegon’s (Cameron) Martinez. Cornell had to have 20 tackles, was a sight to see. We were down 24-10 and he forced a fumble and Michael Williams picked it up and ran 65 yards for a touchdown.”
Bellamy feels fortunate to have a weapon in Jake Ward, who was 8-for-8 in extra points and kicked a 25-yard field goal, his seventh of the season.
Bellamy was impressed by Lake Orion, saying: “They’re the real deal, a well-coached team. I don’t think they’re going to get beat the rest of the (regular) season.”
West Bloomfield will play at Rochester Adams (4-1, 2-1) on Friday.
KLAA showdown Friday
No. 2 Belleville (5-0, 4-0) will play at No. 10 Dearborn Fordson (5-0, 4-0) in a KLAA East Division showdown on Friday night.
Belleville came back from 10-0 and 17-7 deficits to earn a 29-26 win over Fordson last season with quarterback Christian Dhue-Reid throwing for three touchdowns and running for a 7-yard, go-ahead TD with 7:38 left.
Dhue-Reid, a junior, has started since his freshman year and has Belleville playing at a high level, averaging 49 points the last three games.
Belleville’s defense has three shutouts, including the last two games.
Franklin remains unbeaten
No. 6 Livonia Franklin had to work overtime, defeating crosstown rival Churchill, 49-48, in triple overtime to push its record to 5-0 while remaining tied with Belleville and Fordson atop the KLAA East.
Churchill’s defense limited Franklin — which entered the game averaging 50 points — to 28 points to force overtime and held three-year starting quarterback Jake Kelbert to less than 50-percent passing.
Still, Kelbert did some damage, rushing for 125 yards on 20 carries and scoring three touchdowns, including two in the overtimes.
Small numbers, big goals
Southfield Christian was hard at work during practice Wednesday preparing for its game against Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest.
Southfield Christian showcases a roster of just 16 players and competes in Division 8, not 8-man ball.
Southfield Christian’s goal is to have a winning record and reach the state playoffs since its last postseason appearance came in 2013. It hasn’t won more than three games in a season since.
Southfield Christian is closing in on its goal, improving to 3-2 (2-1 MIAC) with a 20-14 win over Lutheran Northwest on Friday.
“You just figure it out and break it down into smaller chunks. The kids are really good and it’s fun and that’s all you can ask for,” third-year Southfield Christian coach Craig Schoon said of working with just 16 players. “We just break it down to smaller groups, O-line, D-line, skilled players.”
Southfield Christian — which is known for its basketball program, winning five state championships this decade — is led by quarterback Blake Parpart, running back/linebacker Ian Hanafee, receiver/defensive back Caleb Glenn and offensive lineman/linebacker C.J. Sexton.