There wasn't a team in the county who started practice this week with a bigger chip on their proverbial shoulders than head coach Chris Fahr and his squad over at Birmingham Seaholm. Coming off a brutally painful and disappointing 1-8 season, the Maples are looking to rebound big from the depths of despair and restore the respectability at the traditional suburban powerhouse whose loyal fan base has never been described as anything less than rabid. If anyone can lead the resurgence its the 35 year old Fahr, heading into his fifth campaign on the sidelines at Maple Field and one of the state's most promising young football coaching minds. In his first year at the helm in '05, he led the team to a 9-3 record, a conference championship, and the school's first road playoff win in over a decade. Back-to-back 5-4 campaigns followed before '08's disaster of a season.
Last year's squad was full of high profile talent that didn't produce on the field. This season Fahr's troops are significantly less heralded, but he a group he feels will do all the right things to put the program back on top. Understanding that drastic situations call for drastic measures, Fahr had his team on the practice field this week every day at 6:00 am and although he mixed in as many hydrating breaks as possible, film sessions, meals, and 2-3 hour rest stops, the squad didn't break for the day until past sunset. This is the kind of dedication that the program needs from its players to spearhead a major league turnaround in '09. With a solid core of on the field leaders and a fresh influx of some new talent, Fahr thinks its only a matter of time before fruits start to bare on the scoreboard and the standings. "These kids know what needs to be done, specifically, what things need to change, in order for us to re-find success," he said on the sidelines at a practice this week. "They want to sacrifice and give every ounce of themselves for the good of the team. Its just an unbelievable effort on the part of the whole group, especially the seniors, to make the changes needed to put things back going in the right direction. They're the hardest workers 'ive ever coached. I have no doubt its going to translate to success on the field."
Watching practice alongside the Michigan-born coach who got schooled in the ways of the gridiron on the highly-competitive high school fields in the state of Georgia, it was evident this team has overwhelming determination and resolve. Adding transfer Shawn Conway, a 6-4 big play receiver, returner, and cornerback, will aid the re-building effort. His breath-taking skill was evident during the practice session as he caught almost every ball that came his way, a lot of them in traffic, and displayed a magnetic leadership ability that drew the best out of the players around him. Seniors Jake Bowman (RB), Mac Howell (Lineman), Hunter Lukart (Lineman), Keith Otterbein (WR/QB), Jack Quigley (QB/TE) will headline the Maples attack.
The biggest story coming out of camp,besides the addition of Conway, is probably the fight for the starting QB spot being fought between the challenger, Otterbein, whose father is a college coach at Hillsdale, and Quigley,the incumbent and starter in '08. Whoever wins the job will have a stable of big and physical receivers to throw to. Besides Conway, 6-4 Jake Flattery, Chris Bahr, and Tommy McCardell all looked good running routes and catching passes in practice. Matt Roden, one of the team's starting safeties, and Greg Joseph, will spell Bowman at the tailback position. New coordinators Nick Dean, previously at Troy and the new OC and Dave Furlong, previously of Madison Heights Madison and the new DC, will be great additions to Fahr's staff and should give the Seaholm faithful optimisim that much better days are on the horizon.