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JV/ Varsity Football

Head Varsity Coach:  Tony Blankenship
Congrats Denby Varsity Football team!!!!
On behalf of Denby High School, we would like to congratulate the Varsity Football team, under the leadership of Tony Blankenship, for making it to the state playoffs this year.  You had an outstanding football season.  We are so proud of you, and we look forward to next season.  

Also, a shout out to all of the fall sport athletes, including, the Varsity Cheerleaders.  You represented Denby and our athletic department well this season!!!  We will have a banquet in your honor at the end of the school year!

Senior Fall Athletes:  It's always tough competing in your last game, meet, or match, but remember, you have made your mark in Denby history and you will always be a TAR!!!  Thank you for your contribution to Denby's athletic program!


Perry A. Farrell: Tony Blankenship has done an amazing job at Detroit Denby

3:26 PM, October 31, 2013   |  
Tony Blankenship has led Detroit Denby to a 7-2 record in his first season at the school. / Regina H. Boone/Detroit Free Press
By Perry A. Farrell 

Detroit Free Press Sports Writer


On the first day of a rainy high school football practice back in August, I was assigned to write stories on Macomb Dakota, a two-time state Division 1 champion in 2006 and 2007, and Detroit Denby under first-year coach Tony Blankenship.

Dakota had about 100 players on its turf field. Coach Mike Giannone runs a tight ship and he had reloaded from a year ago, so it’s no surprise the Cougars finished undefeated in the MAC Red and will host Warren De La Salle Friday night.

Denby? That was a different story.

When I arrived there were about 24 players or so — total. No freshman team. No junior varsity; less than 30 players trying to form a team to be competitive in the ultra tough Detroit Public School League East Division. On a muddy grass field with more mud than grass.

What I saw were a couple of large offensive linemen struggling with running laps and Blankenship’s coaching staff imploring the group to forget about the rain and the low numbers and get ready to compete.

I knew Blankenship was a great coach from his coaching stints at Detroit Southwestern and Muskegon Heights.

He told me he’d make some calls between the first and second practices that day to check on some players who hadn’t shown up. “We had a couple of guys on vacation with their families,” Blankenship said. “We had a pretty good turnout during the summer.”

I said OK, thinking this group probably would go 3-6 with some defections and maybe 4-5 if the Tars got a couple of breaks.

Shawn Murphy was one of the players on vacation with his family that Monday morning. He came back and was expected to be a leader. In the first game of the season, he broke his leg and didn’t play again.

I originally gave Blankenship a couple of years to get this team up and running.

I should have given him a couple of months.

In what could be best described as amazing, the Tars won seven of nine games and face Detroit Mumford (7-2) this week in the first round of the playoffs.

Only PSL powers East English Village (22-0) and King (52-12) were able to beat the Tars.

Denby even had the nerve to outscore its final two regular-season opponents (Central and Western), 88-0, on its way to the playoffs. The defense allowed just 93 points in nine games, more than half that scored by King.

It’s incredible! The roster still numbers under 30, but a couple of freshmen have joined the team. The school and community have rallied behind this improbable group and Blankenship may have turned in his best coaching job ever.

“I never really thought about that until you brought up,” said Blankenship. “We stayed the course as far as what our focus was as a coaching staff. It didn’t matter who was there. We were going to coach them and coach them hard and prepare them and position them to win football games. We knew we had some circumstances to deal with.”

Denby hadn’t had a winning season since 2009 (5-4), and the players didn’t connect with the previous coaching staff.

“They weren’t used to the structure and accountability I wanted,” said Blankenship. “That was new to them. I knew it was going to be a transition. We had a lot of kids show up for 7-on-7 and we had that week off before two-a-days; so we knew they needed to stay on a schedule even with family things going on.”

Blankenship said it took the entire two-a-day practice sessions to get the team on track.

“It didn’t take a day or two,” said Blankenship. “Up until we went to a four-way scrimmage we were working on getting things together. That’s when I started to see things kind of materialize.”

Denby gave up just seven points in its first three games, all victories, before losing to East English.

“I knew we’d come together once everybody got situated,” said senior quarterback Raynard Lewis. “More people have come and joined us. It’s still about 24 or 25. A lot of us are (playing) both ways, but we keep our conditioning up at practice.

Murphy’s loss only strengthened the team’s resolve.

“Losing him (Murphy) made us more determined as a team,” said Lewis. “We wanted to win for him. We dedicated the season to him. He was our middle linebacker and fullback.

“This is my first year being in the state playoffs. I knew we could make it. (But) I wasn’t expecting this. Nobody was expecting this. We shocked the state. We made our school, our family and our coaches proud.”

They made a believer out of me.