DETROIT – Frankenmuth came into Saturday’s Division 5 Football Final with staggering defensive numbers.
The Eagles had held opponents to 6.8 points and 27 yards rushing per game, and 1.1 yards per carry. Just three opponents had scored in double digits, and Frankenmuth had won each of those games comfortably.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central was well aware of those numbers – so much so that coach Todd Kolster recited them off the top of his head after the game. But the Cougars were also aware of the playmakers they had on offense, and the opportunities they would have to make plays.
Behind a six-touchdown performance from junior quarterback Joey Silveri, Catholic Central did just that, claiming a 48-21 victory against the Eagles at Ford Field. It’s the second-straight title for the Cougars, and fourth in five years. The previous three came in Division 4.
“They are a great defense; they don’t give up a lot of rush yards,” Silveri said. “We knew going into this game that we were going to have to win our matchups one on one to make some big plays, and I was very confident in our guys.”
It was the second-straight year that Silveri accounted for six touchdowns in the Finals, as he did the same against Detroit Country Day in 2019. On Saturday, he threw for three touchdowns and ran for three more. He finished the night with 172 yards on 9 of 15 passing, and 104 yards on the ground.
“I love playing in big games,” Silveri said. “It’s what you play for; it’s a lot of fun. All the preparation we did through this week, it all paid off. When you play a defense that’s basically man-on-man coverage, they bring a lot of pressure, it leaves a lot of chances for big plays, and we took advantage of that tonight.”
Silveri and the Cougars (11-0) wasted little time spreading the field and putting their athletes in space to keep Frankenmuth’s aggressive defense off balance. He hit senior running back Nick Hollern for a 30-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage, and each of the first two drives ended with touchdown passes to the Cougars’ Division I-bound receivers – an 11-yard pass to junior tight end Nolan Ziegler (Notre Dame) and a 13-yard pass to senior receiver Jace Williams (Miami of Ohio).
The Cougars built a 28-7 lead by the half and went up 35-7 early in the third quarter.
“I thought our guys really came out aggressive, and that was the big thing for us,” Kolster said. “We knew they were a heck of a football team, they’re very physical, they play hard, so we had to be able to match that intensity and get some matchups early. We were able to do that, and we were able to continue to go.”
The hill was too high to climb for Frankenmuth (11-1), which was making its first Finals appearance. The Eagles have been a near-constant playoff presence, making it in each of the past 10 years and qualifying for seven Semifinals since 1987. This year’s group was able to take a big step, even if it wasn’t the final one.
“Today, leaving town was amazing,” Frankenmuth coach Phil Martin said. “Our community rallied around this team. It was a sendoff like no other. I want to say it was probably close to 14 miles long with people lined up showing support for this team. The community was outstanding. They stepped up and supported us for this state championship with contributions for buses and meals. It’s just been awesome.”
While Frankenmuth finally broke through this season, Grand Rapids Catholic Central has entered elite territory, with five titles since 2010 and its recent dominant stretch. With key players like Silveri and Ziegler coming back, it might not be over – although Silveri wasn’t quite ready to think beyond Saturday’s accomplishment.
“I’m just trying to enjoy tonight – enjoy the win,” he said. “We’ll worry about next season when we get there, and hopefully we’ll win another one.”
Ziegler had a pair of touchdown catches on the night, adding a 35-yarder early in the second quarter. Silveri’s rushing touchdowns came on runs of two, one and 12 yards. Hollern, who had 192 yards rushing, added a one-yard touchdown. Ziegler and Dan Mikolay each had seven tackles to lead the Catholic Central defense.
Daniel Barger, Davin Reif and Konnor Roche had touchdown runs of four, seven and four yards, respectively, for the Eagles. Cole Lindow led the team with 99 yards rushing, while Reif had 85. Ben Reinert led the Frankenmuth defense with 12 tackles, while Dalton DeBeau had eight.
Barger’s touchdown was set up by an Ashton Benkert fumble recovery, with the ball sprung loose by Ethan Jacobs. That made the score 14-7 late in the first quarter, but Catholic Central scored the game’s next 21 points to pull away.
“I can’t ask any more of our kids; they came out and fought hard,” Martin said. “We got a little behind early. Field position kind of put us in a bind, and we didn’t convert a couple first downs early, and they were able to take advantage of that field position. We made a couple pretty good adjustments at half, but it just wasn’t enough.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Joey Silveri (6) makes a move upfield as Michael Carter gives chase. (Middle) Frankenmuth quarterback Davin Reif (4) unloads a pass as GRCC’s Ryan Beggs (59) works to break free of Zach Adkins’ block. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.
“We don’t want to lose this kid ever,” said Derek Gribler, the Tigers’ first-year varsity football and baseball coach.
“If we could put a red shirt on this kid every year, we would.”
Athletic director John Guillean, who also coaches varsity basketball, agreed.
“He is what we strive to have all our student-athletes achieve: high GPAs, multi-sport athletes, good, overall well-rounded human beings,” Guillean said.
Schuman has participated in five of the seven boys sports Lawrence sponsors.
As a freshman and sophomore, Schuman played football, wrestled, ran track and played baseball.
He had wrestled since he was 4, and went from the 119-pound weight class as a freshman to 145 the following year. That sophomore season he qualified for his Individual Regional. But as a junior, he traded wrestling for basketball.
“My older brother wrestled at Lawrence, so I would come to practices,” he said. “I quit for a couple years (in middle school) because I liked basketball, too. It was hard to do both. Obviously, in high school, I still struggled with choosing,” he added, laughing.
Guillean is thrilled Schuman made the switch.
“He’s 6-(foot-)4, he’s super athletic, defensively he’s a hawk, offensively he can put the ball in the bucket. But really, aside from his skills, just that positive attitude and that positive outlook, not just in a game, but in life in general, is invaluable,” the coach said.
Last season, Schuman earned honorable mention all-league honors in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference, averaging 9.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Lawrence left the BCS for the Southwest 10 Conference this year, joining Bangor, Bloomingdale, Hartford, Decatur, Comstock, Marcellus, Mendon, Centreville, White Pigeon and Cassopolis. Schuman and senior Tim Coombs will co-captain the Tigers, with Guillean rotating in a third captain.
At a school of fewer than 200 students, Schuman will help lead a varsity team with just nine – joined by seniors Andy Bowen and Gabe Gonzalez, juniors Christian Smith, Noel Saldana, Ben McCaw and Zander Payment, and sophomore Jose Hernandez, who will see time with the junior varsity as well using the fifth-quarter rule.
“I attribute a lot of (last year’s successful transition) to my coach, helping me get ready because it wasn’t so pretty,” the senior said. “But we got into it, got going, and my teammates helped me out a lot.”
Gribler is one coach already looking ahead to spring sports after seeing what Schuman did during football season.
In spite of missing 2½ games with an injury, the wide receiver caught 50 receptions for 870 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“I just like the ability to run free, get to hit people, let out some anger,” Schuman laughed.
Gribler said the senior is “an insane athlete.
“On top of his athletic ability, how smart he is in the classroom (3.88 GPA), he helped mold the culture we wanted this year for football. He got our underclassmen the way we wanted them. He was a big asset in many ways.”
Schuman earned all-conference honors for his on-field performance in football as well.
“I would say that my main sport is football,” the senior said. “That’s the one I like the most, spend the most time on.”
In the spring, Schuman competed in both track and baseball, earning all-conference honors in both.
“Doing both is tough,” he said. “I have to say my coaches make it a lot easier for me. They help me a lot and give me the ability to do both, so I really appreciate that.
“Throughout the week you’re traveling every day, it seems like. Baseball twice a week and track, but it’s worth it.”
Schuman’s commitment is so strong that he made a special effort not to let his teammates down last spring.
“He qualified for state in the long jump and did his jumps up in Grand Rapids, then he drove all the way to Kalamazoo to play in the District baseball game,” Guillean said. “That speaks volumes about who this kid is. He did his jumps at 9 a.m. (but did not advance) and made it back to Kalamazoo for a 12:15 game.”
Big shoes to fill
As the youngest of four children of Mark and Gretchen Schuman, the senior was following a family tradition in sports.
Oldest brother Matthew played football, basketball and baseball as well as competed in pole vault and wrestling.
Middle bother Christopher competed in football, wrestling and baseball.
Sister Stephanie played basketball, volleyball and softball.
“I like to say they blazed a pretty good trail for me at this high school,” Schuman said.
As for feeling pressure to live up to his siblings, “I used to when I was younger, but now I feel like I’ve made my own way and done enough things to be proud of that I’m happy with it.”
His own way led him to achieve something none of the others did.
He was named the Tigers’ Male Athlete of the Year, just the third junior to earn the boys honor over the last 25 years.
“I was very honored to win that as a junior,” Schuman said. “There were good athletes in the grade above me. I guess hard work pays off.”
Guillean said while Schuman is “darn good at every sport here,” an athlete does not have to be a “top dog” in every sport.
“Learn how to take a back seat,” he said. “Learn how to be a role player. That will make you a better teammate and a well-rounded human being.
“Johnny has that work ethic, in the classroom, on the field, on the court, on the track. It doesn’t go unnoticed and, obviously, he’s reaping the benefits now.”
Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Lawrence’s John Schuman has participated in five varsity sports during his first 3½ years of high school. (Middle) Lawrence athletic director John Guillean. (Below) Lawrence football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. (Action photos courtesy of John Schuman; head shots by Pam Shebest.)