There’s a new deputy in town for the Milford High School football program.
Oakland County Sheriff Garfrey Smith, who spent last season as the defensive coordinator at Madison Heights Lamphere, earned the nod Jan. 30 after Dan Novak stepped down following the team’s banquet in November because of health reasons.
The 29-year-old Smith was among six candidates interviewed by a committee of five, which was represented by a football parent, youth feeder football program member, a faculty member and two administrators.
“He didn’t have as much experience a couple of the other candidates, but his energy and what we consider his willingness to jump in head first and be a part of the community, and be visible, be around and want to be here all the time really separated him from some of the other candidates,” Milford athletic director Jim Marszalek said. “His experience and knowledge at all levels of the game will be an asset to our players and coaching staff as we work to advance the Milford football program.”
In addition to his one season at Lamphere, Smith was also an assistant at his alma mater Waterford Kettering, where he played four seasons of football, along with Rochester Hills Stoney Creek.
“Previous coaching positions that I had and previous head coaches that I were under always pushed for you to keep continuing your coaching career, not just be settled for something and be happy,” Smith said. “The Milford job opened up and it felt like a good fit. It felt like a good community to go to and it felt like it was my time to try and take over a program.”
In Novak’s only season, Milford finished 2-7 overall and 1-7 in the inaugural season of the nine-school Lakes Valley Conference. Novak took over for Tim Gough, who resigned after going 4-23 in his three seasons.
Milford hasn’t had a winning season since 2012 (5-4) and hasn’t been to the state playoffs since 2011 (6-4).
“We want to be able to pop with our pads and play with our hearts,” Smith said. ‘We want to show people that we want respect back in Milford. We want to be known for a team that can go out on every Friday night and compete to win a game, no matter who we are facing. We know we’ve got big challenges ahead of us. The league is tough, but why be in a weak league? We want to be in that strong league and we like that the league is strong.”
Smith said he hopes to implement the Wing-T offense.
“I think the kids that I’ve watched on film so far that are coming back, that would be more suitable for them,” the new coach said. “We’re still going to look at some things and still look at some players after we meet them, and put them through some tests to see what personnel we have best. We want to fit our personnel with the best system, so there’s always options for that one.”
Defensively, Smith plans to go with an aggressive, attack-style scheme.
“We don’t like to sit back and wait for our opponents to take advantage of us,” he said. “We want to take advantage of them. We run a 4-3 style the converts into a 3-4 and that’s what we did a Lamphere and we were successful.”
Smith said Lamphere assistants Jake Wittlich and Rob Karagosian will be joining him on Milford’s staff for the 2018.
“We took an 0-9 program (in 2016) to 5-5 and made the playoffs,” Smith said. “Unfortunately we lost to a good (Bloomfield Hills) Cranbrook team (35-0) in the playoffs, but it was a good experience because they hadn’t been to the playoffs in seven years. We won the MAC Bronze (4-0), so that was a good accomplishment.”
Smith’s wife Amy is the head girls volleyball coach at Kettering. They have three children including a son Kamden, 6, along with two daughters, Payten, 2, and Rilee, 5 months.
“We not only want to give back to the school, but we want to give back to the community,” Smith said. “We want to be family-based, we’re a family.”
The 36-year-old Novak, an insurance agent, took the Milford job in 2017 after going 0-9 in one season at Ann Arbor Huron.
He battled health issues during his one-year stint with the Mavericks following an auto accident when he was struck by a drunk driver at 1 in the afternoon on St. Patrick’s Day of 2015.
“I had fusion surgery, rods and screws in my back,” Novak said. “It got irritated around probably June-July. It’s compressed around the fusion, so I’ve been pretty much in pain. The areas around it are kind of giving out. I’m going to need back surgery and hip surgery as well.”
Coaching in pain
Novak said surgeons advised him not to coach last season, but he forged ahead.
“I wasn’t going to leave the kids without a coach in summer and scrambling,” Novak said. “We fought through it this year and I made the decision which was best for my family and I. It’s not fair to the Milford kids with me being out three-or-four months to get surgery and miss the summer. I’m just trying to get myself healthy and do what it was necessary.”
And to complicate matters, Novak broke his tibia when he got hit during a practice.
“It was a fun one,” chuckled Novak. “Most of the time I was coaching on crutches or on a golf cart and that’s not how I am. I want to be active and I’m only 36. I just decided to get healthy, and once I do, I may decide to get back into it. It was the best choice for myself and Milford, too.”