Monday, October 27, 2008

Trvia Answers & Farmington's Unfathomable Comeback

With apologies to those I've kept in the dark (that's you, M.L.), here's the skinny on the trivia question I offered for five free books at my signing this past Thursday at the Bloomfield Hills Barnes & Noble.

Question No. 1: What metro Detroit high school did Al Fracassa coach at before assuming the football fortunes at Birmingham Brother Rice?

Fracassa was also the coach for the Knights of Royal Oak's Shrine High School in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Surprised? With Jim Manilla at Royal Oak High in the late 50s, and his stable of assistants that included 'Pin' Ryan, 'Ivy' Loftin, Paul Temerian and Frank Joranko, Royal Oak was a football hotspot during the high school sock-hop era.

In '62, Fracassa's Knights were 6-1-1. They tallied wins over notables like Detroit Holy Redeemer (15-0), Redford St, Mary's (19-0) and a 27-6 win over newly-opened Birmingham Groves. Shrine tied Detroit Servite in a 20-point stalemate for both teams. The only loss for Shrine was a 25-6 setback to Grosse Pointe St. Ambrose, which leads us to the conclusion of Question No. 2.

Question No. 2: What metro Detroit high school did George Perles lead before his days with the Pittsburgh Steelers and later, the Michigan State Spartans?

Perles was head coach at Grosse Pointe's St. Ambrose High. In '62, Perles and his Cavaliers went a perfect 9-0 in marching to the Catholic League championship and Goodfellows Game title. In that Goodfellows Game, St. Ambrose blanked the 8-0 Cardinals of Detroit Cooley, 19-0, on the floor of Tiger Stadium. It was the second-straight domination at 'The Corner' that day, because hours earlier, the Detroit Lions manhandled the previously-undefeated Green Bay Packers 26-14 in the now-famous Thanksgiving Day Massacre. The Lions sacked Hall-Of-Fame quarterback Bart Starr 11 times before the Cavaliers sacked Cooley's state championship dreams.

The state's Associated Press poll rewarded St. Ambrose, which closed in the spring of 1972, with the No. 3 ranking in the final Class B poll of '62. Also of note in Class B that year was West Bloomfield (7-0-1), which earned the 6th position, followed by Dearborn Divine Child (8th / 8-0) and Clawson High's Trojans, 10th with a record of 7-1.

Despite the loss, Detroit Cooley was awarded the No. 4 slot in the Class A poll in '62. Frank Joranko's Ferndale Eagles were sixth with the identical 8-1 record Ferndale High achieved this season. Hamtramck's Cosmos were 9th with a 7-1 slate and Seaholm was 10th at 8-1. Ann Arbor's Pioneer was the state champion in Class A for 1962.

The Fabulous Falcons! Perhaps the best story to emerge from the 2008 high school football season statewide might be the Farmington High Falcons. On September 12, Farmington was humiliated in a 63-0 loss to Rochester Adams High School, the Falcons' 15th-consecutive loss dating back to a 7-0 loss to Royal Oak's Ravens, coached by Terry Powers, on Oct 13, 2006.

I can't state for certain if it's ever happened before, because I don't have the time to go through the records of nearly 800 high schools, some closed many years ago, dating back to 1975, but I would imagine the list of schools who have lost 15 consecutive games in any stretch of seasons and found enough wins in any season to a) break the streak and b) make the playoffs is a short one.

In fact, if I were a betting man, and I'm not, I would say it's probably never happened before.

To pen a story that details 15 straight losses, capped by a 63-0 loss, followed by six-straight wins, including the school's first win over Farmington Hills Harrison in 31 seasons and a win over rival North Farmington to earn a state playoff berth, would probably get most Hollywood script writers laughed into the circular file.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction but no matter what happens to the Falcons in the playoffs, Farmington's revival is one of the great stories of Michigan's 2008-09 scholastic year.

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