GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Catholic Central has advanced to the high school football state finals four times in the last five years.
Frankenmuth, the Catholic Central Cougars’ opponent in Saturday’s Division 5 state final, will be making its trip to Ford Field.
And while Catholic Central might have the overwhelming edge in finals experience, coach Todd Kolster isn’t taking much stock in that.
“We have a solid foundation that we can rely on for some things, but we have so many new plays and not a lot of guys who played last year,” Kolster said. “We have a decent amount of guys who were on the team, but not a lot of guys that played significant roles like they are this year.
“We have been there before so we have that advantage, but I don’t know about all that. It’s a matter of how many guys who have been in that moment and Frankenmuth has played in a lot of tough games. They have a great tradition and they are playing deep into the playoffs every year.”
It’s a fact that the Frankenmuth Eagles (11-0) have established itself as a winning program. The Eagles have won nine or more games nine straight seasons and appeared in three state semifinals.
This year, they finally broke through and will bring their undefeated record into the finals against the unbeaten Cougars, who trounced Detroit Country Day 44-0 in last year’s Division 4 state final to win their third state title in four years.
“They are a very good football team, probably the best team we’ve played all year,” Kolster said. “Their quarterback is dynamic, and maybe the best individual player that we’ve seen all year also. He’s quick and tough and has a good feel running the football. They also have a couple of running backs that run the ball hard.”
Frankenmuth has been especially stout defensively, giving up less than six points per game. The Eagles have held eight of their 11 opponents to seven points or less.
“They are off the charts as far as how well they’ve played defensively and how many negative plays they get you in,” Kolster said. “They bring heavy pressure defense, so we have to stay out of negative plays to have a chance to win and that’s what they’ve done to everybody. If we’re getting a bunch of negative plays, then we are not going to come out on top.”
The Cougars have won 22 consecutive games and have been led by a trio of players at the skill positions.
Junior quarterback Joey Silveri has engineered an offense that has averaged 38 points per game, while senior wide receiver Jace Williams broke the state record for career touchdown receptions with 49.
Senior running back Nick Hollern has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and had four touchdowns in the Cougars’ semifinal win over Freeland.
In an unprecedented season that has been stretched into late January due to COVID-19, Kolster said it’s a blessing to even have a final game to prepare for.
“When you throw in all the things that have gone this year, just having finality, having that closure, I think it’s awesome,” he said. “If someone beats us, they beat us, but at least we got closure to the season as opposed to it just being done.
“I think it’s a great thing for our seniors to be able to have that closure and to end it in the last possible game of your senior year. You dream to be in the state finals and have an opportunity to compete. Our seniors have had that opportunity a couple times, but this one is certainly more special.”
The starts and stops have made it an unusual season, but the players are grateful for the chance to go out as state champions.
“Being able to play for a state title as a senior means a great deal to me,” Hollern said. “I got to help the guys last year go out the right way, and I feel the gravity of the moment since I have had a lot of friends and family come through the school with no state titles to show for it.
“Any time you get to this point, you have to cherish every moment and it’s especially significant now that I’m playing my last week of high school football.”
Division 2: Mona Shores (11-0) vs. Warren De La Salle (7-4), Friday 1 p.m.
The Mona Shores Sailors are headed to Ford Field for the third straight year and are the defending champions after knocking off Detroit Martin Luther King 35-26 a year ago.
Mona Shores is riding a 17-game winning streak, however, three of their last four playoff games have been decided by eight points or less.
The Sailors are led by MLive Player of the Year Brady Rose, a senior quarterback.
The 5-foot-8 Ferris State commit has rushed for 1,314 yards and 22 touchdowns, while also passing for nearly 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Defense is arguably Rose’s strongest asset. He leads the team with 66 tackles and six interceptions, three of which have been returned for touchdowns.
De La Salle, which defeated Mona Shores in the 2018 state finals, is guided by former West Catholic head coach Dan Rohn.
Rohn, a first-year coach, guided the West Catholic Falcons to four Division 5 state championships in a six-year span.
The De La Salle Pilots are looking to become the first team to win a state championship with a losing record. They were 2-4 but have peaked in the playoffs by outscoring their first four playoffs opponents 174-23.
De La Salle upset Oak Park 26-20 in overtime to reach the finals.
Division 6: Montague (11-0) at Clinton (10-1) Friday, 4:30 p.m.
The Montague Wildcats are making their fifth appearance in the state finals and won back-to-back state crowns in 2008 and 2009.
Montague lost to Jackson Lumen Christi 42-28 in the finals two years ago.
The Wildcats are led by senior quarterback Drew Collins, a two-time all-stater who is in the midst of another banner season. Collins has thrown for 1,894 yards and 22 touchdowns. He’s also rushed the ball for 661 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Walker Martin and Hayden McDonald are the team’s top linemen, and both received all-state accolades along with kicker Andrew Kooi.
Clinton is making its third state finals’ appearance and is sparked by two-way standout Brayden Randolph.
Division 8: Centreville (10-0) at Ubly (9-2) Friday, 10 a.m.
The Centreville Bulldogs are making their first trip to the state finals in school history and have done it with an outstanding defense.
Centreville has six shutouts in nine games and is allowing only 3.2 points per game, which ranks second in the state and first among the teams competing this weekend.
The Bulldogs possess a host of talented defenders, including Ethan Browridge, Jared Spencer, Jacob Spencer, Sam Todd, Tristen McElroy, Tyler Swanwick and Gunner Bunning.
Centreville’s offense has been impressive as well, averaging 30 points per game under head coach Jerry Schultz.