Allen Park looks to keep winning without Tom Hoover at the helm
By Henry Greening
Allen Park – A familiar face was missing from Monday afternoon’s Downriver League media day at Allen Park High.
Just five months ago, Allen Park’s coach Tom Hoover called it a career, resigning from his position as head coach.
The 55-year old left last year’s league champion Jaguars after 30 years in the program, 20 of which as head coach. His career record is 171-50 record. Hoover’s legacy also includes just two losing seasons and 17 playoff appearances.
The reigns are now handed over to Tom Danosky, an assistant on Allen Park’s staff last season and a member of the 1997 Jaguar football team. Danosky was a part of the team when Hoover was hired 20 years ago and although he’s new to being the head coach, he isn’t showing his nerves yet.
“I haven’t felt the pressure yet,” said Danosky. “That’s a tribute to the seniors. The kids are all in.”
Two of those seniors are quarterback Antonio Mangiapane and cornerback Tyler Beachnau.
“There hasn’t been much of a change in the coaching,” said Beachnau. “It’s been a pretty easy transition.”
Danosky hasn’t been shy about asking for help, saying that he talks to Hoover daily and has complete confidence in his staff. It also doesn’t hurt that the cupboard isn’t exactly bare for the Jaguars. Allen Park made it to a Division 3 regional final before falling to eventual runner-up Chelsea and will be returning nine starters on defense this season.
“I think one of our strengths is our depth,” said Danosky. “We have lots of guys vying for spots and some good competition in practice.”
One team looking to cash in on the Allen Park coaching change is Trenton. The Trojans were runner-up last season losing only to Allen Park in league play.
“We definitely want to beat Allen Park,” said Trenton senior running back Dontel Hampton. “Especially because they beat us at our place last year.”
Trenton lost to Chelsea in a district final but that’s not all it lost.
The Trojans will have to move on after losing starters on both sides of the ball, including head coach Bob Czarnecki’s son and quarterback Patrick Czarnecki, defensive tackle Dylan Pasquali, linebacker Loren Suave and guard Mason Walz, all of whom are expected to compete in college this fall.
“We lost a lot of talent,” said Connor Charping, who will be taking Czarnecki’s place at quarterback. “We’re very young and guys still get confused.”
Charping returns along with running back Dontel Hampton, who spent his first two high school seasons at Flat Rock before transferring.
“Connor was a wrestling finalist and an all-around good kid,” Bob Czarnecki said. “And Dontel is just an amazing talent. He’s great leader and very humble; we’re very lucky to get him.”
Czarnecki knows that they lost a lot in the offseason, but remains optimistic.
“The good thing is that although we lost starters, we still have guys who played meaningful minutes,” he said. “Our season depends on how we start. The first few weeks will determine where we end up; if we win our first few games before we get into the middle of our schedule, I think we’ll be ok.”
Lost in the mix of last year’s exciting season were the Lincoln Park Railsplitters. The Railsplitters came in fourth in the league with a 6-3 regular season, which was the team’s first winning season since 2002. That stretch included just 10 wins in 11 years from 2003-12 and 66 consecutive losses, the longest losing streak in state history.
“We don’t have that doubt factor anymore,” coach Jamie Grignon said. “We can play with anyone in the league when we’re on our game.
Lincoln Park appears to be in a good spot for the future as they will return nine starters this season and all of them will be expected to return the following season as well. Two of those returning starters are senior receiver and safety Devon Carson and quarterback and safety Elijah Cross.
“The most important thing for us is experience,” said Carson. “We have to keep up our motivation and effort and I’ve been trying to step up and lead by example on and off the field.”
Elijah Cross is new to the quarterback position this year, transitioning from tailback, and taking over for quarterback Steve Glenn who graduated in May.
In regards to those who might not believe that Cross can have success at the position, he has a simple message.
“I just do me and block out the negatives,” he said.
Cross added that he and Carson have a “huge role” on the team and said that they also have a good bond coming together.
In regards to how Grignon plans to follow up last year’s breakthrough season, he said he wants improvement on special teams.
“I was really focused on just getting this team back on track last season and lost sight of some things,” said Grignon. “We lost some games because of special teams, so from day one it’s been an emphasis from us.”
Through it all Grignon cherishes every minute of being a part of the Lincoln Park football family saying “It’s gratifying but challenging to be a part of this program.”
Wyandotte Roosevelt and Woodhaven were not in attendance at the media day due to a practice conflict.