DETROIT – Joey Silveri and his Grand Rapids Catholic Central teammates wanted to prove Friday they had the talent to match up with Detroit Country Day.
It turns out, the Cougars had the talent to overwhelm the top-ranked football team in Division 4 as they cruised to a 44-0 victory in the Division 4 Final at Ford Field.
“Every week we get people telling us, ‘You guys are a good team, but we don’t really know how,’” the Catholic Central sophomore quarterback said. “’You guys don’t really have that good of players.’ To come out here against a great team like Country Day and prove everybody wrong is amazing.”
The win gave Catholic Central its fifth title and third in four years. In 2016 the Cougars also defeated Country Day. That one ended 10-7 – but this time, the result wasn’t in doubt by early in the second half.
“I can’t say that I saw 44-0 coming,” said Catholic Central coach Todd Kolster, who now has four titles to his credit. “I felt really good about our team. I felt really good about what we were doing. I felt really good about the character of the guys on our team. So, I felt like we could go out and get this.”
Silveri was the driving force, as he ran or threw for six total touchdowns, raising his season combined total to 54. He was 15-of-22 passing for 236 yards and rushed 18 times for 143 yards. The Cougars didn’t run a play that didn’t feature a Silveri run or throw until three plays into the third quarter. He either ran or threw on 39 of the Cougars’ first 40 plays.
“He’s a special kid – he's a special young man,” Kolster said. “I’m just really happy for him. I’m happy for our seniors. Joey has come in, and he’s adapted so well to our upperclassmen. They have so much respect for him because he’s such a hard worker. He’s a great character guy. He showed tonight why he is such a good player.”
Silveri was involved in three touchdowns in the first quarter, throwing a pair to Jace Williams (15 and 14 yards) and running for a 53-yard score. The 18 points were six more than Country Day had allowed in a game all season, as the Yellowjackets had cruised into the Finals at 13-0 and allowing 5.2 points per game.
“We saw a lot of one-on-one matchups and a lot of pressure coming,” Silveri said. “So, we knew if we got the ball out quick and gave our receivers a chance one-on-one, they would make plays.”
Williams certainly proved that point, as he tied a Finals record with three touchdown catches. He finished the night with four catches for 62 yards, adding a 23-yard touchdown reception to his two in the first quarter.
Each of his first two scores came on fade routes in which he won a fight for the ball with the defensive back.
“I feel like it set a tone for our offense and defense,” Williams said. “And our special teams were doing a good job today, too.”
Silveri also had a 23-yard touchdown pass to Drew Gommesen to give his team a 24-0 halftime lead, and his second touchdown run came from one yard out midway through the third quarter.
Not long after that run, the Cougars’ defense got in on the scoring, as Jake Passinault intercepted an attempted double pass and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown. That put the game in running clock, as the lead extended to 38-0.
The runback capped off an impressive day for the Catholic Central defense, which held the Yellowjackets to 18 yards rushing and 60 yards of total offense on 37 plays (1.6 per play). Country Day entered the game averaging 34.7 points per game and more than six yards per play.
“I just think you always have to be able to move the ball effectively, which we have been throughout the year,” Country Day coach Dan MacLean said. “We just didn’t. We just didn’t tonight. Credit to them, and it’s a disappointing finish for us. We’ll go back to the drawing board.”
Nolan Zeigler led the Catholic Central defense with 10 total tackles, while Brady Redmer had seven, including three for loss. Dan Southerington added an interception that set up the second Catholic Central score.
Country Day’s defense was led by Danny MacLean who had eight tackles, including one for loss. The Yellowjackets did have one bright spot on special teams, as they blocked all five of the Cougars’ extra point attempts.
“I’m proud of my guys as always,” MacLean said. “But it’s obvious we have work to do. We have work to do to get better. I think we will. We have a good group of kids. It was a good year. Disappointing finish, obviously. They had some good matchups tonight and they exploited them, so credit to them. But we’ll come back. We’ll come back. Country Day will come back.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Joey Silveri breaks away against Detroit Country Day on Saturday. (Middle) Jace Williams pulls in one of his three touchdown catches during the Division 4 Final while Country Day’s Luke Ammori attempts to dislodge the ball.
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.)