Posted by Atif Lodhi on Jan 24 2006 at 04:00PM PST
Shubnell succeeds WARREN -- Kevin Shubnell is an excellent example of an athlete who wouldn't allow a severe injury to finish his career before it got started. Shubnell was a junior quarterback last season for Warren DeLaSalle. He was a backup until Jon Kowalski, the starter, suffered a season-ending injury Oct. 2 against Harper Woods Notre Dame. Shubnell finished that game and started the next week against Orchard Lake St. Mary's. In the third quarter, he suffered a broken left leg. Coach Ross MacDonald said it was ugly and that many on his staff looked away. Shubnell would miss the rest of the football season and the baseball season as well. He wore a cast for three months, but that didn't stop him from working in the weight room. With diligence, he got into shape and ready for his senior year. Although he walks with a noticeable limp, Shubnell has started every game this season and the Pilots are 3-2 with hopes of making the state playoffs. He has completed 57 of 98 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns. On Friday, Shubnell and his teammates will go against one of the state's top teams, one familiar to him -- Orchard Lake St. Mary's. Big Weekend of Football: U-D High's trip to playoffs celebrates school's rebirth: Cubs taste championship and school 'is going nuts' Detroit News, The (MI) November 19, 1999 Author: John Niyo The Detroit News Estimated printed pages: 6 DETROIT -- The alumni celebration lasted well into Saturday night -- into Sunday morning, actually -- down on Seven Mile at Tom's Tavern, a rickety, old watering hole where history finds a comfortable home. Fitting, of course, because the reason for this celebration -- another playoff win for University of Detroit Jesuit's high school football team -- is as much about the past as the present. Fitting, too, because this old place -- Tom's first opened its doors in 1928, and has battled to keep them open ever since -- is a survivor, much like the Jesuit school a few blocks down the street. A sign out in front of U-D Jesuit High School and Academy explains where it's headed. "Reclaiming Our Future" it reads, proudly touting a $25-million fund-raising campaign. But that doesn't even begin to explain where the school has been, less than two decades removed from near extinction. Nor does it explain the excitement surrounding the football team, which, as Coach Scott Merchant quietly figured out with a little research last week, had produced exactly two winning seasons the past 24 years. And yet, here the Cubs are, one game away from a berth in the Division 2 state championship game next week. Catholic League rival Birmingham Brother Rice is the final obstacle at 1 p.m. Saturday. "The school," Merchant says, suppressing a smile, "is going nuts." Most of the 5,000-plus fans in Ferndale to watch U-D Jesuit's 28-21 win over Farmington last weekend didn't bother hiding their glee. The parents screamed, the student section chanted "We want Rice!" and the alumni, well, the alumni didn't quite know what to do with themselves. Freddie Hunter, Class of '87 and a former captain of the University of Michigan basketball team, danced wildly on the bleacher steps as if he were a teen-ager again. On the field, the players belted out the fight song once more: "Here's to U of D High School, we're full of fight!" Then the public address announcer relayed the final statistics, including tailback Robert Perkins' mind-boggling 310-yard rushing total. And the stadium, the Cubs included, erupted once more. "When I first came here, I didn't feel that we were going to have a winning program at all," senior quarterback Ashantti Watson says. "We didn't have a winning tradition, we didn't have any kind of tradition at all." Funny what a magical season like this one -- the Cubs boast a 10-2 record -- can do for a school where academics has always been king. The school is holding a pep rally today. The U-D alums have organized a pregame party at the Holbrook Cafe in Hamtramck on Saturday. The players are trying their best to concentrate on football. "These kids have taken a lot of abuse over the years over how bad they've been," Merchant says. "People saying, you know, 'Why do you want to go there?' So I think there's a little vindication as far as that goes." This is about football, Merchant admits, "but there's some other things going on, too." Standards upheld And some of them, quite honestly, have nothing to do with football. For instance, there is the fact that U-D Jesuit is the city's lone all-boy Catholic school holdover from the 1960s -- from before the 1967 riots ripped apart Detroit and sent families fleeing to the suburbs. High school enrollment at U-D Jesuit topped 1,000 students in 1967, then steadily declined over the next 15 years to a low of 409 in 1983. The school added a middle school academy in 1973 to boost its numbers, but refused two other options -- relaxing academic standards and moving from the city, though there certainly was pressure to do both. "(The Jesuits) just thought moving out of the city would be kind of a 'white flight' move," says Fr. Timothy Shannon, who took over as the school'spresident in 1992 and has spearheaded the successful fund-raising efforts since. "The Jesuits said 'We're not going to move.' We took an awful lot of flack. And, frankly, we lost probably a generation of alumni." What they kept, however, was an identity. Academics are still the priority the school has had students with both perfect SAT and ACT test scores in recent years. And the student body, reflecting its urban promise, remains 27 percent African-American. "There used to be a dozen all-boy Catholic schools in the city," Shannon, 47, says of an era gone by, "and then we were the only remaining one. Every other one either closed or moved out of the city." Coach to rescue And now they're the only one remaining in this year's football playoffs. In fact, U-D Jesuit is the only city school -- public or private -- left in the postseason, with Detroit Martin Luther King eliminated last week. Some of that is thanks to the burgeoning enrollment numbers. This year's freshman class of 226 students is more than twice the size of incoming classes a decade ago. But mostly it's a product of Merchant's work -- a Brother Rice grad, no less -- who left his job as an assistant under Pete Schmidt at Albion College two years ago to coach the lowly Cubs. "All I knew was from when I was at Brother Rice, that they weren't very good," says Merchant, who will coach against his mentor, longtime Brother Rice Coach Al Fracassa, on Saturday, a first for both. "I heard a lot of horror stories. About how bad the players were (at U-D), that kids wouldn't work hard, that it was an academic school and that's all they cared about." But he took the administration's word, and trusted new athletic director Brian Miller, a former assistant basketball coach at Eastern Michigan. Miller sifted through 50 applicants looking for a young, energetic coach "that would fit the U-D mold" but who understood what it took to win. "I think Scott could tell we were serious," says Miller, who coaches the basketball team. Says Merchant: "They seemed like good people that genuinely wanted to do some things to turn it around." Improvement plan Quickly, they have. Merchant scrapped both the old habits and the old offense, diversifying the U-D attack to better utilize some of the team's athleticism. He switched Watson from receiver to quarterback, found a dynamo in Perkins out of the backfield, and stressed the work ethic he learned from Fracassa. "Did I think we could do this? Yeah," says Merchant, who played linebacker on a Division III national championship team at Albion in 1994. "Did I think it would happen in two years? I don't know. Before the season, we thought we had a chance to be pretty good. But this good? "It wasn't out of the realm of possibility," said Merchant, whose team turned the corner with a victory over Warren DeLaSalle, a team that routed the Cubs, 48-7, a year ago. This season, after fumbling two of its first three offensive plays and falling behind 14-0 at halftime, U-D Jesuit rallied for its first win over Warren DeLaSalle since 1989. The Cubs scored on their first three drives of the second half and never looked back. "I don't know about the coaches," Merchant says, "but I think the players realized then, 'Hey, we're pretty good.'" Never mind that The Detroit News never ranked the Cubs higher than seventh in the city: "We've kind of been underdogs all along," says Merchant, who relishes that role, for now. Says Perkins: "We always thought that we were one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the city. And now that we're the only one left in the playoffs, no one can argue." Leave a message for John Niyo at (313) 223-4646 or About the school * Name: University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy * Address: 8400 S. Cambridge, Detroit * Founded: 1877 * President: Fr. Timothy T. Shannon * Enrollment: 756 * Tuition: $5,350 * Famous graduates: Elmore "Dutch" Leonard, novelist Chuck and Joe Muer, restaurateurs Michael Moriarty, actor Ron Rice, starting safety, Detroit Lions L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County executive journalists Michael Parks and David Culhane and former Michigan Supreme Court justices Michael Cavanaugh, Thomas G. Kavanagh and James Brickley. Scores online Football scores are updated as they happen on Detroit News Online's scoreboard, along with game reports, scoring summaries, statistics and standings. Go to and click on Scoreboards. Caption: Photo 1: U-D Jesuit High quarterback Ashantti Watson practices for Saturday's game against rival Birmingham Brother Rice. Daniel Mears / The Detroit News Photo 2: Coach Scott Merchant, right, tossed out U-D Jesuit's old habits and the old offense to take the squad to the semifinals. "Did I think we could do this? Yeah," Merchant said. Daniel Mears / The Detroit News Photo 3: Tailback Robert Perkins totaled 310 yards rushing against Farmington in the Cubs' 28-21 victory last Saturday. Daniel Mears/ The Detroit News Edition: Final Section: Front Page: 1A Dateline: DETROIT Copyright (c) The Detroit News. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc. Record Number: det2797466


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