'Great young man': Cranbrook football coach Ben Jones, 30, dies in car accident

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Ben Jones, one of the young and upcoming stars in Michigan high school football, died in a car accident earlier this week. Jones, the head coach at Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, was 30.

Jones had an outstanding prep career in helping Muskegon Catholic Central earn a Division 8 state championship in 2008 with a 14-0 record. He then played tight end and H-back at Hillsdale College before starting his coaching career.

Ben Jones

Jones coached under Joe D’Angelo at Cranbrook in 2016 as a line coach, then worked a year under head coach Scott Stewart in 2018 before replacing him as head coach for the 2019 season, where Cranbrook finished 6-4, losing to Harper Woods in a predistrict game.

“It’s just a shame, it really is a tragedy, such a young guy, up-and-coming and had a lot going for him,” D’Angelo said.

Jones didn’t teach at Cranbrook but instead was an investment advisor for Schwartz & Co. in Bloomfield Hills.

“Ben was a great line coach, very intense,” said D’Angelo, who got to know Jones through one of his other assistants, Garrett Chapel, who also played at Hillsdale. “He was a great teacher and connected well with kids. He was a good disciplinarian and kids knew exactly where they stood with him. When I left I strongly recommended that he take over, just thought he would continue the success that we had experienced at Cranbrook in the last few years. … Just a great young man.”

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Cranbrook athletic director Steve Graf, who is also the receivers and defensive back coach, was heartbroken when he learned the news, as were the players, who were informed on Thursday.

“We got together as an administrative staff and then started reaching out to the boys throughout the day,” Graf said. “There wasn’t a dry eye around here, and then we told the kids and they were devastated; you really can’t put into words.

“Ben Jones was just loved by everybody and so appreciated by everybody. After Scott (Stewart) stepped down because of a job, Ben came to my office and said he was the guy for the job. We sat in the office and talked several hours about philosophy and his experience and it was an easy decision.

“Really, he was an old-man guy in a young man’s body, just tough with a love for the game. The kids just loved him, and they knew he cared about them, not just as players but as individuals.”

Dearborn Divine Child coach John Filiatraut had high praise for Jones. Divine Child defeated Cranbrook 14-10 in a Catholic League AA game last season.

“It’s so sad, just so young and such a good guy,” said Filiatraut of Jones. “I thought his team was tough and disciplined. I was impressed that they were able to play so well with just 21 or 22 kids on their team. They were the kind of team that had to use all their timeouts in the first and second half to rest their players.

“He knew just how to manage a game, thought he was really connecting with his players. You could see in his team his players were an extension of who he was.”