Davison Finds Answers During Fast Start

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

September 11, 2019

It would have made sense if this were a transition year for Davison football.

The Cardinals have just six seniors on this season’s team, four returning starters on defense and five on offense – including two who were playing different positions last fall – and graduated 2018 Flint Area Player of the Year, quarterback Cannon Hall.

As expected, after two games, Davison is … possibly better than a year ago?

The Cardinals, who finished 7-3 last season, are tied at No. 6 in the latest Associated Press Division 1 poll, sitting at 2-0 with big wins against Fenton (54-27) and Bay City Western (69-13). And nobody in the locker room is surprised by it.

“I feel like all of the work we put in the offseason as a group, we kind of expected this outcome,” junior quarterback Brendan Sullivan said. “The mindset that we have at Davison is that no one is going to outwork us. And that work we put in during the offseason gave us confidence coming into the season.”

Sullivan is a major reason for the Cardinals’ early-season success. The quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-quarterback has thrown for 547 yards and nine touchdowns over two weeks. In Week 2, Sullivan threw for 283 yards and five touchdowns – all during the first half.

While those outside the program wondered how the production of Hall would be replaced, the people inside were confident Sullivan was up to the job.

“In 14 years of coaching, he’s the best quarterback I’ve ever been around,” Davison coach Jake Weingartz said. “Last year, he started at wideout for us, and he was all-league at that. This year, he’s worked very hard in the offseason. We knew how good he was, and obviously other people probably did not. He’s not just a thrower, either. We haven’t had to run him a lot, but in Week 1, he carried it for 80 yards and a touchdown.”

Weingartz believes Sullivan is a Power 5 conference Division I college prospect, and notes that his current lack of offers comes from the fact he hadn’t been a varsity starter at the position until this season. The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder does hold a basketball offer from Saginaw Valley State. 

“It’s crazy to see how he doesn’t have any offers,” said Davison senior linebacker Logan Pasko, who is committed to Youngstown State. “He brings the passing aspect to the offense. Cannon was a good thrower, but (Sullivan) really brings accuracy and a deep threat. If he was a Madden player, he’d be 99 overall.”

Sullivan’s favorite target this season has been Latrell Fordham, who has caught 10 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns to lead the team. Sullivan has spread it out, though, as he’s completed passes to seven receivers. A.J. Terry (two), Gabe Smith and Payton Pizzala have each caught a touchdown pass.

“I think it’s very hard to defend us,” Sullivan said. “I can pick which receiver to throw to every play, and the running backs we have are just studs. We’re hard to defend at every level. It makes it easier when you have receivers you can trust and a running back you can trust.”

The Cardinals are averaging 230.5 yards per game on the ground, led by Caleb Smith (145 yards, two TDs) and Carter Cryderman (121 yards, 1 TD). They’re running behind a completely retooled offensive line, which was another major question mark coming into the season that appears to have been answered.

Junior Lucas Edgar is the only returning starter on the line, and he moved from tackle to left guard. He’s joined up front by sophomore Isaac Norton, junior CJ Brady, senior Cam Hunt and junior Yousef Dukuly. The group still has work to do, but has impressed thus far.

“Obviously, they’re all really young, and we have a lot to improve on, which is exciting for our staff to know that group has only played two games together,” Weingartz said. “Essentially, they’ve really only played two halves of football.”

With just six seniors, the other lingering question about the Cardinals would have been leadership, but that’s been handled as well.

“(The junior class has) been pretty strong, but all credit to those six seniors leading that class and leading us to where we are right now,” Sullivan said. 

Pasco, who has paced the defense with 17 tackles through two weeks, said the team doesn’t need much leadership, because “it’s just there.” He’s not afraid to speak up when he has to, though.

“For me and Caleb Smith, we’ve been waiting for this moment since our sophomore year,” Pasco said. “Now that it’s here, it feels like the easiest thing. Whenever something needs to be said, we know that someone is going to step up and say it.”

The Cardinals showed their maturity right away, dominating a veteran-laden Fenton team that has high hopes of its own this season, and doing so with a weather delay that forced the game to be played over the course of two days.

“It was a big game,” Weingartz said. “For our guys to come out and play the way they did, and be mature about it and play the way they did over the course of two days was great to see.”

More big tests await, as the Cardinals’ Saginaw Valley League Blue schedule features three playoff teams from a year ago – Flint Powers Catholic, Grand Blanc and Lapeer. Davison also has nonconference matchups against Grand Ledge and two-time reigning Division 2 champion Warren De La Salle Collegiate.

“I think we’re going to be prepared,” Pasco said. “We stay ready so we don’t have to get ready. All of us know what we have to do and what our jobs are. We don’t want any pushovers on our schedule. We want to go out of our comfort zone and really show the state what we have to offer.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Davison defenders bring down a Fenton ball carrier during their Week 1 win over the Tigers. (Middle) Cardinals quarterback Brendan Sullivan locks on to his target. (Photos by Terry Lyons.)

Record-Setting Viney Gained Lifelong Confidence at Marine City

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

July 17, 2024

Olivia Viney didn’t have to look far for inspiration while taking on the challenge of applying to veterinary school.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosThe 2015 Marine City graduate and record-setting placekicker simply drew from her own experience as a high school athlete.

“It just really taught me that I could do hard things,” Viney said. “I was very involved when I was in school. I did soccer, theater, travel soccer and then football. Especially with football, I learned that if I put my mind to it, I can do it. That helped me to excel in undergrad. When it came time to get accepted to vet school, it was like, ‘This is what I have to do,’ and I did it. That was very confidence-building. It taught me that I really can do hard things.”

Viney, who graduated from Saginaw Valley State University in 2019 and Michigan State Veterinary School in 2023, is now working as an associate veterinarian at Deporre Veterinary Hospital in West Bloomfield. 

Accomplishing her goals is nothing new to Viney, and not at all a surprise to those who watched her come through the Mariners athletic program.

“She was very serious, she was focused and she was dialed in,” said Dave Frendt, who coached Viney in both football and soccer at Marine City. “She knew what she wanted to accomplish, and she set out to do that. She was a fierce competitor and very driven. She was a good leader in that way where she was kind of feisty, but the team would follow that.”

Viney was an all-state soccer player for the Mariners, leading them to a pair of District titles and a Macomb Area Conference Gold title during her four years as a varsity player. It’s the sport she grew up playing, but the one she was most known for after graduation was football. American football.

The 5-foot-1-ish center attacking midfielder found herself in the MHSAA football record book after hitting all seven of her extra point attempts in the Mariners’ 2013 Division 4 Final victory against Grand Rapids South Christian.

“I think it makes sense,” she said. “There were lots of great soccer players, even that I played with. Great players that had gone through school, so I don’t think it’s weird that people remember me for that. When I talk with people, they’ll connect the dots – ‘Oh, you played football.’

“I was more accomplished as a soccer player and had more accolades. But I’m prouder of my football accomplishments, because it was really setting a pathway for girls that wanted to get into that. It’s so much more common now, or accepted. Even though it’s been almost 11 years since we won at Ford Field, I’m so proud of high school Olivia and what she did, the courage she had. She wasn’t scared of anything.”

Viney graduated from MSU’s Veterinary School in 2023. Viney joined Marine City’s football program as a sophomore, playing on the junior varsity squad. While she was there only to kick, she was all in when it came to practicing.

“Coach (Joe) Fregetto made me do tackling drills and drills in the mud – I really did earn my spot on the team,” Viney said. “I think it was mostly because he didn’t know what to do with me, so I guess just do everything that the guys do.”

She handled varsity kicking duties the next two years, setting the school record in 2013 for most extra points made during a single season – a record that still stands. Former Mariners coach Ron Glodich said that Viney actually never missed an extra point that season, as the four failed attempts were never even kicked.

It was her performance in the Division 4 Final that gained her statewide acclaim, as she hit 7 of 7 attempts, tying a record for most extra points made in a Finals game. It stood until a pair of kickers hit eight in 2022.

One record that never will be broken, however, is Viney becoming the first female to score a point at the Finals.

“Everything was so surreal, I was so nervous,” Viney said. “One of my most vivid memories was that day, or maybe the day before, Coach Glodich said, ‘Just so you know, when you get to the field, the goal posts are two feet narrower on each side. But that doesn’t matter if you kick it in the middle.’

“We got there and watched the team before us so we could get used to it, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re so narrow.’ … Seeing myself up on the big screen was kind of almost a little embarrassing, because I knew people were talking about me being the girl. But once we were in the game, it was a lot like any other game. I was just waiting for my turn to go on the field and do my job.”

Viney later was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” – ironically, right below current U.S. Women’s National Team forward Mallory Pugh – but she wasn’t looked at any differently by her teammates, and she wouldn’t have wanted to be.

“That team was all about sacrifice for the team,” Frendt said. “For them to realize, ‘None of us can do what she does, so we better embrace it, because no one else can do it.’ They really made her feel like part of the team. They wanted to protect her, too. But she was tough. She wasn’t going to take anything.”

Viney went to SVSU to study biology and played for its club soccer team. During her time there, she volunteered at an animal shelter and made the decision she wanted to help animals in her career. She works in general practice at Deporre, and would eventually like to work in shelter medicine.

She and her husband Matt, who were married in May, live with their three dogs. She’s not far from home, and in the spring of 2023 she visited Frendt’s college and career readiness class to speak with students at her alma mater. Her presentation and the attention to detail and hard work she put into it, Frendt said, blew his students away. Not that it surprised him.

“That’s poured into her life after sports,” he said of her work ethic. “She just kept plugging away. She’s awesome.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Marine City’s Olivia Viney kicks at the 2013 11-Player Football Finals, also during her spring soccer season, and cares for one of her patients as an associate veterinarian. (Middle) Viney graduated from MSU’s Veterinary School in 2023. (Photos courtesy of Olivia Viney.)