New Boston Huron is the new blood in this year's playoffsFootball  |
New Boston – Coach Dan Kalbfleisch knew his New Boston Huron team was going to be good this season. He just didn’t know how good.
Huron (11-1) qualified for the state playoffs just once before and had never won a playoff game until this season. After defeating Redford Thurston last Friday, 38-29, Huron is one victory away from playing a state championship.
On Saturday the Chiefs will play Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (10-2), a team many pick to with the Division 3 state championship, in a semifinal at Dearborn High at 1 p.m.
“The 8-1 (regular season) record wasn’t that surprising,” Kalbfleisch said. “I didn’t think about a playoff run since we never had one before. When we were 6-1 we started to look at the pairings. With Flat Rock (0-9) and Dearborn Heights Annapolis (3-6) as our last two opponents, we were looking at projections. I looked at our area. We thought Allen Park, Romulus and Trenton as possible opponents and thought we had a chance. After we beat Riverview (40-21) on Halloween (in the first round) I went the next day to scout St. Mary’s. I thought there was a chance we could meet them in the semifinals.”
For decades Huron struggled to reach the .500. The Chiefs were 0-5 in 1952, their first full season competing at the varsity level. Since then Huron had just six winning seasons before Kalbfleisch took over the program in 2004. Huron went 1-8 his first season but there were signs that a turnaround was taking place. In ’10 Huron made the playoffs at 6-3 and lost to Dearborn Divine Child, 9-6, in a Division 4 pre-district.
Last season Huron started 1-4 then won its last four games including a 28-21 victory over Carleton Airport, a traditional power in Huron’s league, the Huron League. Airport held a 28-game winning streak against Huron before that game.
Understandably, Huron’s nine-game winning streak is a school record surpassing a six-game streak that was stopped by Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central this past Sept. 12.
This year’s team has good mix of seniors and underclassmen, which bods well for the future. Quarterback Matt Hartwick and tailback Jacob Fryer are both juniors. This season Hartwick has passed for over 1,000 yards and rushed for over 1,000. Fryer had 200 yards rushing against Thurston and scored the game-clinching touchdown with six minutes left.
Huron had its way early with Thurston and led 31-13. Thurston pulled to within 31-29 when Kalbfleisch went to his bag of tricks. Hartwick passed to receiver Devin Collins who pitched back to Fryer who completed a 38-yard hook-and-ladder for a touchdown.
“I thought what the heck,” Kalbfleisch said. “We needed something.”
Regardless of Saturday’s outcome Huron is now relevant, in the league and possibly the state playoffs for the foreseeable future.
There were 30 players in the program when Kalbfleisch took over. There are now 90.
“My No. 1 goal was to build the numbers,” Kalbfleisch said. “I wanted 10 percent of the (male) student body to participate. We have 850 students so we’ve done that.”
Kalbfleisch has done that and more.
The hidden strength of a program
Knowledgeable fans know the star players, the head coaches and the history of many football programs.
The one area of a program often not recognized is the staff, the assistant coaches that are specialized in their trade and are often the reason why some programs win and others don’t.
Harken back to the great Farmington Hills Harrison teams in the 1980s, ‘90s and the early 2000s. The defensive coordinator was Bob Sutter, one of the best. Coach John Herrington took care of the offense and left the defense in Sutter’s lap.
Go back to Saturday and Warren De La Salle’s 26-21 upset over Birmingham Brother Rice. Brother Rice’s point total was its lowest of the season. Mike Lewis, the Detroit Catholic Central graduate, is De La Salle’s defensive coordinator. Lewis and his defensive coaches deserve much of the credit for the Pilots advancing to Saturday’s Division 2 semifinals. Brother Rice has the best quarterback/receiver (Alex Malzone, Grant Perry) combination in the state yet Lewis and his cohorts were able to prepare their defense for one of the state’s top offenses and come out on top.
“(Malzone) is a great quarterback and (Perry) is a great receiver,” Lewis said. “We wanted to play fast. We wanted to be prepared for what they do. We were disappointed with the big plays they had in the first half. We did a little different things in our alignment in the second half. We played up on them. Didn’t give (the receivers) room.”