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FOOTBALL: Shamrocks "All in," Catholic Central in midst of another banner campaign on the gridiron

   | Scott Burnstein

FOOTBALL: Shamrocks "All in," Catholic Central in midst of another banner campaign on the gridiron

NOVI – Playing its heart out for its fallen brother, the football team at Novi Detroit Catholic Central is crushing the competition.

Winning its fifth Division 1 district crown in a row with a 37-27 victory over Walled Lake Western on Saturday, Catholic Central upped its record to 9-2 and will try for a third straight regional title when the Shamrocks’ face Temperance Bedford on the road later this week.

The name David Widzinski is still on the team’s roster, even though Widzinski himself, a fast-rising sophomore linebacker on last year’s squad, died in his sleep 11 months ago of an undetected heart ailment. His No. 33 jersey remains on the sidelines for inspiration.

And inspired it has.

Catholic Central hasn’t missed a beat, going “All in for 33,” (the Shamrocks’ motto for 2013) as it tries to make it three straight appearances in the state championship game at Ford Field at the conclusion of the month.

So far, so good.

“David’s memory and spirit lift us up and acts as a great deal of motivation for the entire team,” senior co-captain and Navy-commit Dylan Roney said.

Roney is an All-Catholic League selection at defensive end and a three-year starter the past two years playing both ways (rush end, tight end, running back). He is one of the Shamrocks’ biggest catalysts, setting the tempo for the club on and off the field, embodying prototypical Catholic Central smash-mouth football in everything he does.

”We like to put in the work, we enjoy being out there together,” said Roney of him and the team. “We’ve got to stay focused though and can’t let our guard down going forward. Everyone knows we’re going to have to fight hard the rest of the way to get to where we want to go, which is back to Ford Field and the state finals. There have been some positive steps and we still have more to go. We’re all ready for the challenge.”

Last weekend against Walled Lake Western, Roney tallied 10 tackles, a sack and a touchdown on the ground.

Another three-year starter making lots of noise this season and assuming a leadership role for the Shamrocks is versatile Zach Bock, a sleek and speedy slotback, defensive back, placekicker and return specialist. Bock got well acquainted with the end zone in the district finals Saturday, scoring three touchdowns, one on a 33-yard reception, one on a 66-yard run and the other on a 20-yard fumble-recovery.

He’ll be playing soccer next fall in college at Western Michigan. His little brother, Alex, an already lethally-effective option in his own right as only a sophomore, added a 65-yard touchdown grab Saturday as well as playing lockdown defense from his cornerback slot.

Senior quarterback Sean Birney keeps defenses honest at the controls of the team's offense, able to skewer defenses with his arm or his legs. In only his first season starting under center, Birney was an All-Catholic League choice. A second-generation Shamrocks’ signal-caller, he’ll be joining his big brother Mike on the lacrosse field in college at the University of Detroit-Mercy next year.

“We’ll always be a run-oriented football team, but we can mix it up, too,” remarked longtime Catholic Central head coach Tom Mach following his squad’s district title-tilt. “The balance we have is sometimes overlooked.”

One thing that is never overlooked with Catholic Central is that stingy Shamrocks’ defense, trademarks of Mach teams dating back four decades and 10 state championship rings

Besides Roney and the Bock Brothers, the Catholic Central defense is spearheaded by lineman Chris Okoye and Cameron Hendershot, linebackers Danny Collins, Jordan Jenkins, David Wright and Ryan McGillivary and secondary standouts Mike Schmitz, Jack Van Acker and Mitch Katkic.

"This group that has really rounded into shape nicely," Mach said. "They've found an identity and built on it. They're spunky. They don't shake easily. That's a pretty good combination to have on your side."