One of the more polarizing coaching figures in high school football has left one of the sport's top programs. The Baltimore Sun
reported this week that St. Frances Academy (Baltimore)
head coach Biff Poggi has stepped down to rejoin Jim Harbaugh at the University of Michigan.
Messay Hailemariam, who served as head coach for five seasons starting in 2011 replaces Poggi. Hailemariam has been on Poggi's staff along with co-head coach Henry Russell the last four seasons, when the Panthers went 44-3 and emerged as a national power.
St. Frances enters the 2021 season ranked No. 10
in the preseason MaxPreps Top 25
"It's a younger man's game," Poggi told the Sun. "This was a chance to go one last time on a really big stage, to a legendary program."
Poggi, who coached 19 seasons at another Maryland power Gilman (Baltimore)
, built St. Frances — between a stint with the Wolverines in 2017 — quickly behind his own personal wealth, hiring top coaches and recruiting players throughout the region.
The team dominated opponents so thoroughly — the Panthers were 23-0 and outscored foes 1,011-93 in 2017 and 2018 combined — local teams refused to play them. They dropped out of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and took on a national schedule.
The quick rise in success and fallout with the MIAA led to an HBO documentary entitled "The Cost of Winning."
With Hailemariam in charge, the Panthers already boast one of the most difficult schedules in the country with road matchups at St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) on Aug. 28, De La Salle (Concord, Calif) on Oct. 1 and IMG Academy on Nov. 19. Those three teams are ranked Nos. 6, 17 and 2, respectively, in the MaxPreps Top 25.
Two other scheduled opponents, Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) and St. Joseph Regional (Montvale, N.J.), are ranked in the Preseason MaxPreps Top 100.
De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh told MaxPreps Poggi's resignation will not alter the Oct. 1 game scheduled with the Panthers
. "Not at all," Alumbaugh texted. "Our talks started with (Poggi) and ended with (Hailemariam)."