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Bittersweet Symphony

Posted by Atif Lodhi at Dec 23, 2006 4:00PM PST ( 0 Comments )
How can this season be described? I really can't describe how this season went without rambling on for an hour, but then again, this team deserves all the rambling I can give them. This 2006 De La Salle football team did what many previous De La Salle football teams had dreamed of, but no one had achieved until this past season. True, the Pilots were never able to fully reach the pinnacle on two different occasions, but the journey itself was a memorable one. The accolades were numerous, the pride was overflowing, and the sense of accomplishment is well justified. This team did what the 2002 and the 2003 De La Salle football teams had started before it (not to forget any other DLS football team) - continuing a tradition of representing the school with great honor and dignity, while putting De La Salle football back on the map and in the discussion of high quality football programs in the Metro Detroit area and statewide. Where to begin? Coming off two consecutive 4-5 seasons, many prognosticators and Monday Morning Quarterbacks dismissed the Pilots as being a team of any significant consequence this season and a team with little chance to compete in the highly regarded Catholic League Central Division. There were few believers in the beginning and most of them resided at 14600 Common Road. Only the Pilots themselves (and their family and fans) believed this could be a great season. So when Pershing went down, very few gave notice. When Carman-Ainsworth fell, it was regarded with a skeptical eye. When U of D Jesuit was shot down, people said, "Prove it against the Big Boys." When Catholic Central went down, the win was disregarded due to the Shamrocks lackluster performance as of late. When St. Mary's went down, people began to notice, but were still weary. When Grosse Pointe North was defeated, people said, "Prove it against Brother Rice." When Brother Rice went down, people said, "Now do it in the Semis." When Dearborn when down, people said, "Try to compete against Muskegon." And when the Pilots succumbed against Muskegon, only then did the people say, "We believe." This entire season was predicated on the team being the underdog - doing what no one thought a De La Salle football team could do. As the opponents fell, slowly, but surely people began to see the Pilots as a team to be reckoned with and began to give De La Salle its due. But the team could have cared less about what others said about them because for this De La Salle football team, it was about the name on the front of the jersey and not the name on the back. It was about De La Salle and those who had worn the Purple and Gold with pride before them. It was about those who started the football program in 1927, those who played during the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. It was about those who gave their blood, sweat, and tears at four different home sites before them. It was about honoring the past, seizing the present, and building a road for the future. It was about...De La Salle. First and foremost, credit has to be given to all of the coaches throughout the program, especially the Varsity coaches: Coach Verska, Coach Lewis, Coach Szatkowski, Coach Julien, Coach Giacona, Coach Szalkiewicz, Coach Haskell, Coach Featherstone, and Coach Zaicek. It was through their dedication of preparing the players so well that the Pilots knew what the opposition was going to do before each and every play. It was these coaches who spent months preparing, revising, scouting, developing, and establishing the game plan and implementing it to the best of their abilities and giving the players the chance to compete with any team in the state of Michigan. Without this dedicated staff, this team would not have done what it did this year. Credit must also be given to the seniors on this team - all 25 of them. For every successful team, there is senior leadership guiding it along the way. On this De La Salle football team, while the program may have indicated just three captains, those three were just the tip of the iceburg in terms of leadership. In essence, every senior was a captain and led the underclassmen along the way. This senior class has created the model of how every senior class after it should act in regards to the football team. Also, credit has to be given to the school administration, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and fans who supported the Pilots through their journey out of the wilderness and into the light. Without the support of these people, we would have not have seen the sea of Purple which arose for the Pilots at Ford Field during the State Finals. Thank you for your support and continue to support this team in the future. This season provided so many memorable moments - Who will forget the whipping Pershing in Week 1 or demolishing a quality Carman-Ainsworth team in Week 2? How about avenging last year's close losses to U of D and Catholic Central in convicing fashion? Let's not forget how the Warren Community Center was rocking when St. Mary's unsuccessfully tried to come back against the Pilots? What about that cold November Saturday night when the Pilots finally vanquished their nemisis, the Brother Rice Warriors, to win the program's first ever Regional Title? And who will forget the memorable showing the Pilots gave its fans and the state of Michigan against Muskegon in the state finals? Personally, this senior group will always strike a chord with me. Maybe because this was Coach Verska's first freshman class that came in after the magical 2002 season or maybe because I had grown close to the players I had personally coached in baseball. Or maybe because when I had seen this team as freshmen in August 2003, I realized the potential for this group was tremendous. This was group of seniors who had started as a team of 63 in 2003 but were whittled down to 25 by 2006. Some players transferred, while others stopped playing football all together, but for these 25 players, a special bond was formed with each other that no one can ever take away from them for the rest of their lives. It was truly something special and something no one will soon forget. While this season has paved the road for future seasons, the mission is not yet complete. The Pilots have climbed towards the top, but now it's time to take care of unfinished business. There is much work to be done for 2007, but next year's senior group knows what it takes to get there and will lead the team and the program to never before seen heights of prosperity. But it was will be a long, arduous road, but it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. There is help on the way from the lower levels, who finished a combined 13-3 this season. It will be these players who will carry on the banner for the 2006 team. "If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me" - that will be the tale of the 2007 De La Salle football team - the 80th year of the program. If it is to be, it will happen. Good Luck and GO PILOTS!!!image
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2006 Award Winners and Post Season Awards

Posted by Atif Lodhi at Dec 23, 2006 4:00PM PST ( 0 Comments )
Most Improved: D-Line: Dan Karam O-Line: Mike Riley Back: Brian Lewis DB: Chad O'Shell LB: Fred Elias, Kyle Torzy Receiver: David Blackburn Most Valuable: D-Line: Alex Hillman, Sam Lentine O-Line: Alex Hillman, Anthony Vitale Back: Jimmy Berezik DB: Don Fowler, Jimmy Martinez LB: Anthony Sabatella Receiver: Don Fowler Scout Team Award: Andrew Binkowski Robert Swantek Mr. Hustle Award: Anthony Sierawski Patrick Sierawski MVP Offense: Jimmy Berezik MVP Defense: Anthony Sabatella Shane Torzy Team MVP: Shane Torzy MVP Special Teams: Jason Shubnell Tom Bonino Award: Don Fowler John Vitale Lineman Award: Anthony Vitale 2007 Captains: Kyle Torzy Todd Culling Fred Elias Chad O'Shell The Paul Verska Scholarship Award Recipient: Kendall Wilkinson 1st Team Detroit News Metro East: Jimmy Berezik Alex Hillman Shane Torzy Detroit Free Press Metro East Coach of the Year: Paul Verska Detroit Free Press Metro East: Jimmy Berezik Shane Torzy 1st Team Macomb Daily: Jimmy Berezik Shane Torzy Alex Hillman 2nd Team Macomb Daily: Don Fowler Sam Lentine Anthony Sabatella 1st Team All-Metro, Detroit Free Press: Jimmy Berezik Shane Torzy 1st Team All-Metro, Detroit News: Jimmy Berezik Shane Torzy All State Dream Team, Free Press: Jimmy Berezik All State Dream Team, Detroit News: Jimmy Berezik All State Division 2, Free Press: Shane Torzy All State Class A, Detroit News: Shane Torzy Macomb County Player of the Year: Jimmy Berezik
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What A Team...What A Season

Posted by Atif Lodhi at Nov 28, 2006 4:00PM PST ( 0 Comments )
The article here is by Terry Foster of the Detroit News. To see the actual article, click on the title above. ************************************************************************************ A GAME OF INCHES DeLaSalle's dream gets crushed in final seconds DETROIT -- You can measure why Warren DeLaSalle didn't slay the final giant in inches. You can measure it by seconds. You can measure it by one player's 40-yard dash time being just that much quicker than another's. Often following Lions games at Ford Field, coach Rod Marinelli holds two fingers an inch apart and says that is how close the Lions are to winning. The Pilots actually would be telling the truth. After 109 plays, 811 yards of total offense, eight penalties, 17 first downs and a half-dozen moments of do-or-die, this game came down to one move and one fumble in the final minute. Pilots wide receiver Don Fowler appeared on his way to the winning touchdown as the clock struck midnight. But Muskegon defensive back Ronald Johnson came out of nowhere to catch him, and the ball popped out as Fowler strained to gain extra yardage. That play was the difference in Muskegon's 32-30 victory over DeLaSalle (11-3) in a Friday thriller during the Division 2 final that nearly turned into a shocker. Muskegon (14-0) came in with the big credentials. The Pilots are getting back on the football map after years of mediocrity. It was a young man with a big name outdueling a young man with a big heart. On this one play, talent beat grit. This game resembled "Rocky" -- the underdog Pilots kept scrapping and sticking and moving. They were giant pests the Big Reds could not shake. For four quarters they slugged it out, matching big hits like a grand slam event at Flushing Meadows. When quarterback Chris Crawford gave Muskegon a 19-16 lead on an 83-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, DeLaSalle's Jimmy Berezik answered with an 89-yard kickoff return. This is the way it went before an exhausted crowd. DeLaSalle stayed with Muskegon despite Crawford (232 yards rushing, two touchdowns) putting on one of the great running performances in high school playoff history. He also passed for 137 yards and a touchdown. We saw Berezik gain 255 all-purpose yards and DeLaSalle quarterback Brian Lewis pass for 210 yards and a touchdown. Play of the game On an afternoon of superlatives, mixed with five turnovers, there came a defining moment that will be talked about from Macomb County to Lake Michigan. DeLaSalle sliced a 32-23 deficit to 32-30 when Berezik leaped 3 yards for a touchdown with 5:19 remaining. He looked like one of those old prop planes lifting off from City Airport, across the street from where the old DeLaSalle used to stand. After Muskegon went three-and-out, DeLaSalle got the ball and drove to the Muskegon 36 when Lewis spotted Fowler on a crossing pattern. When Fowler caught the ball, Johnson left his man and ran as if his life depended on it. Now, it was not the easiest run for Johnson. This is a guy suffering from a sports hernia, tender groin and a sore shoulder. "I did not think I was going to catch him," Johnson admitted. But he caught Fowler at the 1 and the ball popped into the end zone, where Muskegon's Bobby Miller pounced on the ball to finally secure victory with 0:58 remaining. One more step, one more breath and DeLaSalle wins. If you saw the play you might ask, "Why didn't Fowler simply go down? Why did he strain when it was not necessary?" You wouldn't ask that question if you watched the way the Pilots operated during their improbable run to the final. Doing the little things is what got them here. They were underdogs against Orchard Lake St. Mary's and Detroit Catholic Central, but clawed their way to victory. They were underdogs to Birmingham Brother Rice three times this season, but finally found a way to win the third time around. Fighting until the end Fowler did not go down without a fight. That is not the DeLaSalle way. DeLaSalle is a team that sold out on every play because it's the only way the Pilots know how to play. If they did not, players would have been Christmas shopping rather than hunting for a state title. "I would have done the same thing," Berezik said. "It is the big show and you want to make a big-time play." As Fowler walked off the field, coaches and players consoled him. Some wouldn't talk to him, opting instead to give him his space. But ultimately it will be the words of coach Paul Verska that matter most. "I am going to tell him I still love him and the team still loves him," Verska said. "And all of DeLaSalle is proud of him." They should be. Fowler has made big plays all season. In his final football game as a Pilot, he caught five passes for 134 yards. And if an All-American were not breathing down his neck, Fowler would have sealed the deal. "If I talked to him, I would tell him he had a heck of a season," safety Shane Torzy said. "He's been making plays for us all season. You cannot blame him. I felt he played a big part in what happened to us this season and I am privileged to have played with him." DeLaSalle wins respect If there is any consolation, Muskegon was honored to play DeLaSalle. Muskegon has more state titles and victories than any other program in the state. Muskegon has the most rabid fan base and plays in a 100-year-old stadium. Division I coaches make routine stops at the outpost in Western Michigan with the biggest prize being Johnson, who is deciding among Southern California, Michigan and Notre Dame. It is no coincidence all three have an outside shot at a national title. That is how big time he is. It would be easy to say Muskegon simply had an off day. But the Big Reds refused to walk away without showering their opponent with praise. It was close for a reason. "They are a great team," Johnson said of DeLaSalle. "They studied a lot on us and they just came out to play." It was so close, Muskegon coach Tony Annese even thought his team was fortunate to win. Verska tried to put things in perspective. "You can't have everything you want in life," Verska said. "But there will be other things in life. They will be great dads and great brothers and great uncles. That is more important. I measure success by how they will be when they get their own family." You do not measure these successes in inches. You do in a football game. You can reach Terry Foster at Terry.Foster@detnews.com ************************************************************************************ A Season Wrap Up will be done after the Special Football Banquet on December 10th, 2006.
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ONWARD TO FORD FIELD!!!

Posted by Atif Lodhi at Nov 17, 2006 4:00PM PST ( 0 Comments )
The season to remember keeps rolling as the De La Salle Pilots defeated Dearborn High School in a Division II State Final 17-7 at Ferndale High School. With the win, De La Salle now advances to its first ever state championship game at Ford Field on Friday, November 24th. Both teams had shots in the first quarter to take the early lead in game. For De La Salle, the team drove from its 35 to the Dearborn 24 on its opening drive, but the Dearborn defense drove the Pilots back to the Dearborn 32 yard line and forced DLS to punt. Dearborn had its best shot to score early on its second possession of the game as the Pioneers drove from their 24 to the DLS 14 yard line, but on 4th and 2, Dearborn quarterback Anthony Mifsud was sacked by Kyle Torzy to give the Pilots the ball back at the DLS 23 yard line. After exchanging possessions in the second quarter, the Pilots got on the board first, driving 57 yards on 5 plays, capped by a 47 yard touchdown pass from Brian Lewis to Don Fowler, giving DLS the 7-0 lead. Dearborn, after driving to midfield after the DLS score, pinned the Pilots deep in their own end at the DLS 5 yard line after a 45 yard punt. After getting -4 yards on 3 plays, the Pilots punted from their 1 yard line to the Dearborn 35 which was returned 10 yards to the DLS 25 by Dearborn punt returner Danny McKae. On the first play from scrimmage, Mifsud connected with wide receiver Mohamed Hamed for a 25 yard touchdown pass and tying the game at 7. DLS regained the lead late in the second quarter when the Pilots drove from their own 43 to the Dearborn 14 yard line, highlighted by a Jimmy Berezik 42 yard run. The run set up Kyle Torzy's 30 yard field goal to end the first half and give DLS the 10-7 lead. In the second half, the DLS defense rose to the occassion, especially in the third quarter when the Pilot defense intercepted two Mifsud passes, as well as sacking the quarterback twice, while allowing the Dearborn offense to gain just 29 yards in the quarter. The teams traded possessions throughout the third quarter and on the first play of the fourth quarter, Dearborn punted the ball to the DLS 39 yard line where it was then returned by Jimmy Berezik to the DLS 45. From there, the Pilots went on a 10 play, 55 yard drive over a span of 5 minutes, capped off by Jimmy Berezik's 30 yard touchdown run to give DLS, after the successful PAT, a 17-7 lead. From there, the Pioneers drove from their 25 yard line to the DLS 17 yard line in 17 plays, but on 4th and 15 from the DLS 17, Mifsud's pass intended for Hamed went incomplete, ending any chance of a Dearborn comeback. From there, the Pilots ran out the last 2 minutes of the game and completed De La Salle's first ever semi-finals appearance with a win. From here, the Pilots will now travel back to Ford Field for the third time this season, this time for a chance to win the school's first ever state title in football. De La Salle will take on Muskegon High School on Friday, November 24th at 1:00 PM. This game will also mark the end of the careers of the 25 seniors on the De La Salle football team who have worked long and hard to put De La Salle where it is today and to complete a goal set in January. So until Friday, Good Luck and GO PILOTS!!! News and Notes: De La Salle is now 11-2 on the year...De La Salle's leading rusher was Jimmy Berezik who had 122 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown...Berezik has now rushed for 1771 yards so far this year...Brian Lewis was 6 for 11 for 95 yards and a touchdown...Don Fowler caught 5 passes for 91 yards, along with his touchdown pass...With the touchdown, Berezik tied Allen Jefferson's 22 year old record of rushing touchdowns in a season with 17...Berezik also broke Joe Novak's 2002 record of most carries in a seasion...De La Salle outgained Dearborn 239 yards to 226 yards...Anthony Sabatella set the school record for tackles in a season with 130...The De La Salle offense also set a record with 533 rushing attempts in one season...With Kyle Torzy's 2nd quarter field goal, the team has now tied its 1984 record of most field goals made in a season (8)...Brian Lewis' 9 touchdown passes is the most for a DLS quarterback since Kevin Shubnell threw 10 touchdown passes in 1999...Muskegon is 13-0 on the year - this is their first ever meeting against De La Salle.
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Posted by Atif Lodhi at Nov 12, 2006 4:00PM PST ( 0 Comments )