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 protected] 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. 

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

May 26, 2023

Mendon’s run to the Division 2 Final last fall included some of the strongest rushing performances over the history of 8-player football.

The Hornets ran for 4,317 yards, second-most all-time, on the second-most attempts (520) and with a record-setting 682 yards Oct. 14 against Marcellus. Mendon also set the record for total offense with 692 total in that game, and made the single-season touchdowns list with 76 including 66 rushing (also second on that list).

Junior Jack McCaw made the single-season scoring list with 212 points, most coming on 29 touchdowns, and Evan Lukeman made the single-game rushing list with 401 yards against Marcellus. Mendon’s defense also earned praise, twice making the fewest-first-downs-allowed list with a low of three.

See below for more recent additions to the 8-player portion of the football record book:

8-Player Football

Athens’ Landon Bennett earned a pair of record book entries after reaching the end zone seven times during his team’s 72-0 win over Burr Oak on Sept. 8. His seven scores are tied for third-most in 8-player history and included three rushing, three on punt returns and one on an interception return. The three punt return touchdowns are a record. Bennett is a junior.

On the night Powers North Central broke its 8-player record for consecutive wins, claiming its 28th straight, senior Luke Gorzinski tied Jets great Jason Whitens for the record for interception touchdowns in a game with two, scoring on returns during the second and fourth quarters. Gorzinski has signed with Michigan Tech, and North Central’s winning streak is 37 games and counting.

A pair of Atlanta offensive playmakers and a top defensive lineman earned a total of seven entries in the record book for achievements last fall. Senior quarterback Tyler Currie threw for 30 touchdowns over eight games, and also made the records for six touchdowns and 419 passing yards against Whittemore-Prescott on Sept. 23; the passing yards are second-most for one 8-player game. Sophomore Landon Galea was added for 263 yards and five of those touchdowns against the Cardinals, and also for 1,418 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns over nine games. Junior teammate Tucker Kendrick made the tackles for loss list with five against Hillman on Oct. 6.

Adrian Lenawee Christian senior Brady McKelvey became the first to make the career extra points list in 8-player football this past fall. He bettered his previous single-season record making 64 of 66 extra-point attempts over 11 games and finishing his two-year varsity career with 123 extra points in 127 tries.

Sam McKissack reached the record book showcasing multiple skills for Crystal Falls Forest Park during the 2021 season – twice for rushing attempts in a game including with a record 59 against Ontonagon that Sept. 10, and then with a record 70-yard punt Oct. 30, 2021, against Lake Linden-Hubbell. Teammate Devon Basirico also made the record book with six fumble recoveries over 11 games that season. As a team, Forest Park was added twice for single-game rushing attempts – including 73 total in that Ontonagon game – and for 424 rushes over 11 games for the season. McKissack and Basirico are seniors this spring.

Nikolaus Lewis tied for eighth-most rushing touchdowns in an 8-player game when he reached the end zone six times for Carsonville-Port Sanilac in its win over Caseville on Oct. 7. He’s a senior this spring.

Bridgman has won 24 straight games over the last three seasons, and an exceptional offense – and exceptional offensive star – have played major roles. The Bees were added for 658 total yards in a win over Lawrence last season, that total ranking third all-time, and also 613 yards in a win over Eau Claire. Those included totals of 575 and 547 rushing yards, respectively, and Bridgman was added for 3,598 rushing yards (sixth on the list), 59 rushing touchdowns (fourth) and 76 total touchdowns (seventh). Senior Reid Haskins capped his four-year, 32-game varsity career with 13 record book entries, including for 254 points last season over nine games (tied for fifth all-time) and a record 620 career points, 41 touchdowns last season (fifth) and a record 95 for his career, 2,344 rushing yards last season (third) and a record 5,206 for his career, and 41 rushing touchdowns last season (third) and a record 94 for his career. Senior teammate Tanner Peters made the records three times including for 50 extra points last season (fourth) and 99 over 26 games and three seasons (second on the career list).

Mio's Austin Fox rewrote the 8-player passing record book this past fall, with his 621 yards in a game against Whittemore-Prescott setting a single-game record as he totaled four of the five-highest passing yardage totals. He also set a record with 3,516 over nine games for the season, another record with 289 passing attempts over those nine games and a third record for nine touchdown passes in that game against the Cardinals. His 41 touchdown passes total rank fourth. Teammates Gage Long and Nathan Hurst also earned several record book entries on the receiving end of those passes. Long’s 297 receiving yards against Whittemore-Prescott were tied for third most, and Hurst’s 266 against Alcona rank eighth. Long set a single-season record with 1,739 receiving yards, with Hurst sixth all-time at 1,321, and Long’s 14 receptions against the Cardinals and 70 for the season also rank second on those respective lists. Hurst set a record for longest 8-player kickoff return with a 99-yarder against St. Helen Charlton Heston. All three are seniors.

Peck was one of the first MHSAA 8-player champions, claiming the title in 2013, and Cody Abrego one of the state’s first 8-player stars. The Pirates were added to the MHSAA record book 52 times, and Abrego 14 times individually. Among the most notable entries for the 2015 graduate were for 462 points scored over his two-season career (ranking sixth all-time), 74 career touchdowns (sixth), 2,202 rushing yards in 2013 (fifth) and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (sixth). Current senior Caleb Lentner was one of the stars statewide this past season, and he was added eight times including for 50 points scored in a game (ranking second), 272 points for a season last fall (fifth), eight touchdowns in a game (tied for second), 42 touchdowns in a season (fifth), an 8-player record of 2,694 rushing yards from last season, and 38 rushing touchdowns also last fall (fourth). Others to make the individual lists were Nathan Robar, Caleb Dudley, Steven VanConant, Kyle Abrego and Nathan Neihaus, Dudley for a record 20 career interceptions over two seasons and VanConant for a record 12 tackles for loss in a 2022 game and 36 tackles for loss for the season last fall. The Pirates also are all over the 8-player team record book, including for a record 97 touchdowns in 2013, a record 5,895 yards of total offense that season, 528 carries, 4,346 rushing yards and 73 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (all ranking second); and 24 interceptions in 2014, which ranks second on that list.

Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand was one of the most dynamic players in 8-player football in the fall in leading Martin to the Division 1 title. He had one of his most exciting nights in a playoff opener against Tekonsha, making the single-game touchdown pass list with six in a 68-6 victory.

PHOTO Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) eludes a tackle during the 8-Player Division 2 Final in November at Northern Michigan University. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)