D5 football final: Grand Rapids Catholic Central wins fourth title in five seasons

Eric Coughlin
The Detroit News

Detroit — After winning three out of the last four Division 4 football championships, when Grand Rapids Catholic Central was moved to Division 5 for the 2020 season, it must have known its chance to make it four titles in five years was good.

At Ford Field on Saturday, that's exactly what happened, as Catholic Central (11-0) polished off an undefeated season, gliding by Frankenmuth, 48-21, for the Division 5 championship.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central wide receiver Jace Williams, left, is congratulated by teammate Nolan Ziegler after Williams scored a touchdown against Frankenmuth in the first half.

Catholic Central head coach Todd Kolster cemented himself as one of the preeminent high school coaches in the state. In nine seasons at Catholic Central Kolster has taken his team to the finals five times, with wins in four of those appearances.

"I thought our guys came out aggressive, and that was the big thing for us," Kolster said. "We knew they (Frankenmuth) would play hard, but we were able to get some match-ups early. We executed very well. Overall, I'm very proud of our kids."

Catholic Central wide receiver Jace Williams, committed to play football at Miami (Ohio), added to his career touchdown reception record, setting the mark at 49.

"As a team we were really close this year," Williams said. "We were together a lot. We practiced hard, and the camaraderie was better than any other team I've been on. I'm proud of my boys — we got the job done."

His quarterback, Joey Silveri, was almost automatic with plenty of time in the pocket to find open receivers, going 9-for-15 passing for 172 yards and three touchdowns. The junior also racked up 115 yards on 18 carries and three more scores on the ground but was humble after the game.

"We got a great game out of my teammates," Silveri said. "Our offensive line got off the ball fast and physical."

Junior wide receiver and strong safety Nolan Ziegler was a major beneficiary of Silveri's comfort, finding plenty of room over the middle and recording multiple scores. Ziegler finished with two receiving touchdowns and is committed to play football at Notre Dame.

"We came out with the mentality that we were going to hit them first," Ziegler said. "They ended up slowly quitting, and that's when you take advantage of them. Joey (Silveri) threw me two great balls, and it was great protection by the line."

Senior running back Nick Hollern padded his 1,000-yard rushing season with several clock-eating runs for Catholic Central. He gained 192 yards on 26 carries with one score.

Frankenmuth (11-1) was outmatched in its first championship game appearance. Its offense gained more than 3,000 yards this season but was mostly bottled up when it counted by a much more talented opponent than it had seen thus far in the playoffs. Frankenmuth had allowed more than 1,000 passing yards and 10 receiving touchdowns coming into the game, and it proved an easy matchup for Silveri and his receivers.

Junior running back Cole Lindown led Frankenmuth with 107 yards on 13 carries.

Frankenmuth coach Phil Martin now has a 78-15 record after eight seasons with the team.

"I can't ask any more of our kids," Martin said. "We fought hard but got behind early and bad field position put us in a bind. We made good adjustments at the half, but it wasn't enough. This group of kids had 167 days of active football participation. I commend every athlete that's here today. Our community rallied around this. They stepped up and supported us."

The game ended what was a long season for both teams due to COVID-19 cancellations and postponements.

"I think the emotional side of things for the players and families has been unbelievable," Kolster said. "The kids worked on their own when we were on a pause. They did whatever they needed to do because they're driven to be the best they can be."

Catholic Central scored on its first drive, which went 80 yards in seven plays. Silveri hit Ziegler over the middle for a 12-yard strike, putting Catholic Central up, 7-0.

Four minutes later, Silveri found Williams wide open for a 13-yard touchdown to put Catholic Central in control, 14-0.

Frankenmuth was able to start a drive in Catholic Central territory thanks to a fumble recovery and finished the possession with a 4-yard run by senior running back Daniel Barger. The extra point cut Catholic Central's lead to 14-7.

In the second quarter Catholic Central answered. Silveri found Ziegler streaking across the middle again, this time for a 35-yard score, and Catholic Central was up 21-7.

Catholic Central's next drive went 54 yards and was capped by a 2-yard quarterback sneak by Silveri to make it 28-7 for Catholic Central.

In the third quarter, after a 50-yard run by Hollern that got the ball down to Frankenmuth's 1, Silveri punched it in to put Catholic Central up big, 35-7.

On its next possession, Frankenmuth moved the ball well as well as it would all game, and senior quarterback Davin Reif spun and dove into the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown to draw closer, 35-14.

Catholic Central answered. Silveri lofted a ball to Williams for a 42-yard completion, and two plays later took it himself for a 7-yard rushing score to make it 42-14 for Catholic Central.

On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Lindow busted off a big, 70-yard gain that set up a 4-yard score for senior running back Konnor Roche, drawing Frankenmuth a little closer, 42-21.

In the fourth quarter, Catholic Central had a response. This time it was a 71-yard drive capped by a 1-yard Hollern rumble to make it 48-21 for Catholic Central.

Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer.