A new era in Flivver football

Mark Novara takes over for longtime coach Chris Hofer

Burt Angeli/The Daily News Photo Mark Novara, Kingsford’s new head football coach, holds one of the team’s top-of-the-line Riddell Speedflex helmets in the equipment room.

KINGSFORD — Mark Novara, the 16th head coach in the 93-year history of Kingsford High School football, would like nothing more than to maintain the excellence created by Chris Hofer.

Hofer, who recently retired from coaching and teaching, guided the the Flivvers to an unbeaten 1993 season with four state finals appearances.

There’s also another aspect from Hofer’s 32 years that needs to carry over.

“We have to keep from his era the toughness part,” said Novara, a 1993 KHS grad and Flivver assistant for 19 years. “When you play Kingsford, you know to better strap it up, and that’s one of the things he installed here. That’s really the piece that we need to hold onto.”

Added Novara, who quarterbacked the Flivvers to the 1992 state finals, “I learned a ton from the guy throughout the years.”

Novara, 44, tore up the Lakeland College (Wis.) record books running Randy Awrey’s run-and-shoot offense. The southpaw followed that Lakeland Hall of Fame career with a season of professional football in Sweden.

He had a contract for another year but opted to get on with his life.

“It was time to grow up after that one,” Novara said of Sweden. “It was fun.”

At Kingsford, Novara began as a voluntary varsity assistant before helping Jerry Reddinger with the junior varsity. He later became the junior varsity head coach and assisted Hofer for the past four seasons.

While Hofer operated both sides of the football, Novara will direct the offense and former Flivver quarterback Mike Olsen will direct the defense. Jeff Harry is in charge of the line.

“We’ll be more of an ‘I’ team and some Pistol stuff,” Novara said of the offense. “It’ll look different in the backfield but an off-tackle play is an off-tackle play. There’s only so many different ways you can do it.”

Novara, who describes Olsen as a “really good coach and up-and-coming guy, says the Flivvers will have more of a 4-3 look defensively. Olsen has experienced directing the junior varsity defense.

“Players dictate what we can do defensively,” Novara said. “Hof” really understood defense.”

The summer months will be dedicated to camps and “chalk talks.” The Flivvers will take part in next month’s Yooper Football Camp in Kingsford and to West Iron County for the first time July 15-16-17.

“How our kids respond in the summer will determine where we can go and how they handle it,” Novara said. “We’ll try to simplify everything. We’ll be as basic as can be until we’ve mastered it.”

Novara will be concerned with more than his varsity. There’s also the junior varsity and freshman ranks along with the Central UP Youth Football League.

“We’re really going to be focused on top to bottom, even to the youth using our terminology, so the freshman kid can hop in the varsity huddle and know exactly what we’re talking about,” Novara said. “We’ve put a lot of time into that part of it so it’s all uniform from top to bottom.

“(Youth football) is a feeder to us. It only makes sense and we’ve reached out to those guys.”

Before the Flivvers under Novara begin their own quest for greatness on the gridiron, they want to establish “school pride” within the program. The football players will be urged to participate in more than one sport.

“We don’t necessarily want a whole bunch of kids in the weight room,” said Novara, noting other Flivver sports that could have used more numbers. “We want them playing wrestling or track. We’re going to push, push our kids into all the other sports. A lot of great football players are wrestlers.”

Novara, a Breitung Township Schools fifth-grade math teacher, and his wife, Kristin (Wahlstrom), are the parents of two children, Nic and Gianna.

Coaching runs in the family, with his brother John leading downstate Portland to the 2012 Division 5 state title. The Novara brothers are the sons of Joann and Charlie, a former Mountaineer assistant who teamed with Rick Olds to turn out exceptional junior varsity teams.

Novara’s first year at the helm may be challenging. Only a few starters return and varsity numbers are expected to be down.

“One thing I can tell you is the kids are working hard,” said Novara, who will meet with the parents of Flivver football players in grades 9-12 on June 5. “I’ll think we’ll be better than what people think we’re going to be.

“We have a nice crop of juniors coming up. Our seniors are solid. I think we’ll be OK. I really do.”