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.
While fans are settling into another season, Michigan State Police Lt. Tedric Gibbs has been fully immersed in football for months.
The Jackson Post’s assistant post commander serves as assistant coach for Jackson High School’s varsity football team and for the team at Parkside Middle School.
“I started coaching when my older son was in youth sports, as a way to do something together that we both love,” Gibbs said. “My younger son followed the same path, so I joined his team too. I grew up in Jackson and am grateful to be able to serve my hometown from the sidelines and at our post.”
Some 400 miles north, Lt. Mark Giannunzio is also a familiar face in and on the field. The MSP Negaunee Post assistant post commander and Eighth District public information officer enforces the rules of the game as a high school and college football official, the latter for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“I started at the high school level to stay involved in athletics and make authentic connections in the community,” Giannunzio said. “It’s rewarding to help teach the game and share knowledge of the rules. I currently have a full 11-game schedule in the GLIAC Division II college conference, with high school games interspersed during the year.”
The correlation among coaching, officiating and policing translates.
“With my fellow troopers, I want to inspire, motivate and encourage to get the most out of them,” Gibbs said. “I take the same approach with my players to figure out what they need from me, as their designated leader, to be as successful as they can. In both capacities, I do the work alongside them. We do it together.”
This approach is especially important when tough times surface. Lieutenant Gibbs’ high school team experienced tragedy right before its first game when a player died in a car crash.
“We focused on adversity,” said Gibbs, who was in a unique position to talk from a police perspective too. “It’s a benefit to have that insight and background and share it with what they can control – make good decisions and wear your seatbelt.”
Lieutenant Gibbs incorporates his coworkers when he can, like during spring conditioning when fellow troopers join him and his players, helping all involved to make new connections and build strong bonds between the students and officers.
“One of the most important attributes in both careers is communication,” Giannunzio said. “Communication can make or break an official and a police officer. Much like selling a citation to a motorist, I need to be able to sell the penalty in a calm and professional manner. Demeanor and attitude go together on both the football field and when we are out patrolling in the Blue Goose.”
Treating everyone with dignity and respect is something Lieutenants Gibbs and Giannunzio commit to as members of a modern police agency and in their areas of expertise on the football field.
“Both roles afford so many opportunities to develop culture and cultivate teamwork,” Gibbs said. “The best part is watching others flourish and playing a part in their growth.”
PHOTOS (Top) Michigan State Police Lt. Tedric Gibbs, left, serves as an assistant football coach for the Jackson High varsity. (Middle) Lt. Mark Giannunzio officiates at the high school and college levels. (Below) Gibbs also coaches at Jackson Parkside Middle School. (Photos provided by the Michigan State Police.)