GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School’s football team, the season ending at Ford Field has become routine.
The Cougars have won four state championships in the past five seasons (three in Division 4, last year Division 5) and are aiming for their third consecutive title in 2021.
This time, however, it will have to be done with a team lacking experience at the varsity level.
The Cougars lost plenty of offensive lineman and some key skill position players, none more important than Jace Williams, who holds the record for the most career touchdowns receptions of all time in the state.
“We’ve got a couple guys with a lot of experience but we’ve got guys with nothing in that area,” head coach Todd Kolster said. “Right now, we are trying to mesh that all together. Guys from the less experienced group to match the intensity of the guys who have been here.”
Quarterback Joey Silveri — who shined in last season’s state title game against Frankenmuth with six total touchdowns (three rushing and three passing) — is returning, which is huge for leadership.
Right now, Kolster likes the direction the team is going and how the younger players are handling it.
Of course, turning the “next man up” into players on a winning football team is something the Cougars have done for over half a decade now.
Since its 2016-17 state title run, Catholic Central has lost just four games. They’ve won 61 games. Only one of those losses came in the playoffs.
Senior wide receiver and free safety Jon Passinault has been a part of that success and is now taking it on his shoulders to be one of the leaders this season.
“Most of the guys on this team haven’t played in front of a lot of fans because their first year had COVID involved,” Passinault said. “I want to get everyone going, lead by example and get people to do what I’m doing. Because we’re going to need to have people step up and fill some pretty big shoes at skill positions and lineman.
“I want to make sure everyone knows what they are doing every play.”
For the coaching staff, Kolster wants his guys to guide this group to understand the game of football more in depth.
“We want our guys to be able to apply what we do to certain situations,” Kolster said. “We try to put them in those positions at practice every day. It creates a challenge every day so they can be ready for what’s to come.”
For the Cougars, what’s to come is another difficult road to a state title.
They start the season out with the “Battle at the Big House” against Lapeer from the east side of the state. They have Forest Hills Eastern and Grand Rapids Christian slated for challenging early season matchups and end the season with three of the final five games away from The CAT.
For Kolster, the state title runs isn’t a subject he preaches on regularly at practice or off the field. It’s more about each day.
“To be honest, I know it’s cliche, but we just don’t talk about it a lot,” Kolster said. “We have so much work today to be better for tomorrow, we really don’t have a lot of time to talk about what’s going to happen in November and so on.
“If we can’t take care of business early in the year, we’ll be sitting at home watching later on.”