DCC, Rice Begin Following New Leaders
By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half
August 16, 2017
The Detroit Catholic League football coaching carousel took a few more turns during the offseason, with a pair of programs once led by two of the winningest coaches in state history welcoming new leaders for this fall.
Two former understudies to those longtime mentors now find themselves with the top jobs directing programs that have combined to earn 18 MHSAA Finals championships.
Adam Korzeniewski, 43, is the new coach at Birmingham Brother Rice, replacing Dave Sofran, who replaced legendary coach Al Fracassa after the Warriors won their third consecutive Division 2 title in 2013.
Dan Anderson, 48, is the new coach at Detroit Catholic Central, taking over for recently-retired Tom Mach, who directed the Shamrocks to a Division 1 runner-up finish nine months ago.
“It is daunting,” Anderson said. “You question yourself. Would Tom have done that? You want to keep the tradition alive. I’m not Tom Mach. I can learn from him and put my stamp on it.”
He and Korzeniewski will seek to do so while navigating what continues to be one of the most competitive leagues in the state. Detroit Catholic Central (10), Brother Rice (8) and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (7) have combined to amass 25 MHSAA football titles, while Warren DeLaSalle has added two more.
But when Mach announced his retirement from DCC in February, it continued a recent run of Catholic League Central programs passing the baton. Following the 2015 season Paul Verska – who led DeLaSalle to the 2014 Division 2 title – stepped down from the Pilots, and Mike Giannone left Macomb Dakota to fill Verska’s spot. Fracassa retired after the 2013 season with a record of 430-117-7 since starting at Royal Oak Shrine in 1960 and moving to Brother Rice in 1969; he holds Michigan’s record for most high school football coaching wins, while Mach is third with a record of 370-94 from 1976-2016.
St. Mary’s longtime leader George Porritt (256-71 since 1989) will enter this season as the league’s only coach with more than a year heading up the program at his school.
“I’m not a tight T (formation) guy. But I will run it right at you,” Anderson said in explaining a philosophical similarity to Mach. “And I do run some tight T plays. You can’t get rid of the wham. Tom’s philosophy was defense wins championships. That won’t change while I’m here.”
The wham is a basic run play into the middle of the line, a trademark of Mach’s offense. It’s simple but often effective. Anderson said he will install a multiple offense incorporating formations and plays from a variety of schemes as the Shamrocks look to add to last season's 13-1 run.
Anderson has been well-schooled, at Catholic Central and a number of high schools in Ohio where he grew up, played football and coached. He came to Catholic Central in 1999 as a freshmen coach. The next five seasons he was the head junior varsity coach. In 2005, he became a varsity assistant – and in 2007 he became the defensive coordinator.
Anderson played defensive end and offensive tackle at Archbishop Alter in Kettering, Ohio, located near Dayton. He earned a scholarship to University of Pittsburgh where he played guard and was a starter his junior and senior seasons.
Long before then, he knew he wanted to become a teacher and a coach. A junior high history teacher, who was also a coach, played a major role in Anderson becoming the person he is today.
“He coached me in CYO (Catholic Youth Organization),” Anderson said. “He made a big impression upon me. I was 12 or 13 years old, and I knew then I wanted to teach history and coach.
“I love the game (of football). As soon as I got out of college (1992), I started coaching as a volunteer assistant at Penn Hills (Pa.).”
And he hasn’t stopped coaching since. After leaving Penn Hills, Anderson went to Pomfret, Maryland, located just outside of Washington, D.C., and coached three sports (baseball, basketball and football) at McDonough High. After two years, he went back to his alma mater and spent five years there, the last three as the head football coach. His wife at the time was transferred to General Motors in the Detroit area and, again, Anderson sent out applications and was hired by Catholic Central as a history teacher and football coach.
Anderson said he feels fortunate to be in this position. Learning and having mentors within a parochial school system prepared him for this opportunity and challenge.
“Mach, to me, was a heck of a mentor,” he said. “My high school coach, Ed Domstiz, was one of my mentors, too. And he’s still coaching.
“Tom was laid back. He didn’t take things too seriously. With all of the extracurricular things that go on now, he wanted football to remain a game. That bothered him, the kids jumping from one school to another. To me, high school was a great time, all of the friends that you made. When you move around you miss that.
“For Tom, it was more of his relationships with people. He had the Xs and Os, but it was about building men. That was always an emphasis. You had to develop them into great people. What you saw with Tom is what you got. It was refreshing.”
Though Korzeniewski isn’t directly replacing a legend, Fracassa’s shadow still looms over Brother Rice football; history doesn’t leave us that quickly. Expectations remain high for a program that won three straight Division 2 titles from 2011-13. The Warriors finished 7-4 last fall.
There’s an added unknown for Korzeniewski. He’s never been a head coach before. He’s coached for 17 seasons, including six as Fracassa’s defensive coordinator. The last two seasons Korzeniewski was the defensive coordinator at Birmingham Seaholm, working under his good friend Jim DeWald. The two were teammates at Western Michigan during the mid-1990s.
Korzeniewski’s approach is to keep things simple. He doesn’t see his job as having more pressure than most head coaching positions. As a coach, you teach. For the players, they learn.
“To me, it’s my job,” he said. “I go about it as I would anything else. To other people it would be different. I do my job every day.
“I didn’t come here thinking other people did this or that. It’s the kids. It goes back to why I got into coaching. You see the progress. It’s important to them that they get better. Football is important to them.”
Just as Anderson learned from his predecessor, Korzeniewski has borrowed much from Fracassa.
“I learned the importance of a team,” Korzeniewski said. “Nothing is more important than the team. And there’s something else. He made every player feel a part of the team. He had a way to make kids compete. I wish I could do that.
“What’s important to me is that things get taught and understood. You have to be demanding and supportive. (It’s) the action and reaction.”
Rest assured, both coaches will be watched as if through a microscopic lens. They understand that. They also understand they are heading into once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and they’re going to make the most of them.
“I’m excited,” Anderson said. “We have a great group of kids. We have a great group of coaches and we’re going to enjoy each other’s company.”
Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at email@example.com with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Catholic Central's Dan Anderson (left), here coaching the defense during the 2016 Division 1 Final, and Brother Rice's Adam Korzeniewski, the Warriors' defensive coordinator during their 2012 Division 2 title run, are taking over top Detroit Catholic League programs this fall. (Middle) Former Brother Rice coach Al Fracassa (top) retired after the 2013 season, while DCC's Tom Mach stepped down in February.
MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
March 25, 2023
The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.
The one-day camps will take place between May 16-19 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.
Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.
“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”
Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.
All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.
MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.
“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”
The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.