• Michigan

20 YEARS OF STATE CHAMPS! 20 STATE CHAMPIONS SERIES: 2009 Detroit Catholic Central

By: SCOTT BURNSTEIN, September 12, 2022, 3:47 pm

Novi — Word was out. Sharks were circling. Detroit Catholic Central football was on the downswing and ripe for the picking, The once-glorious program had gone soft since moving to to the suburbs in the mid-2000s.

Or so said the chatter around the team as it prepared for the 2009 campaign.

That narrative flipped real quickly that season as the Shamrocks ripped off a perfect 14-0 season and the program’s 10th state title. It was also the final title for the legendary Tom Mach, who constructed Catholic Central’s “Smashmouth Dynasty,” in his four decades heading the program, and represented a turning point in his 40-season regime, when the team re-established its winning ways and trademark grittiness,
The 2009 club rolled out a wicked two-headed monster in the backfield with seniors Niko Palazeti (Michigan State) and Anthony Capatina (Michigan). The defense was immaculate, spinning seven shutouts on the season while only allowing opponents to reach double digits on the scoreboard a paltry three times in its 14-game slate. Spunky senior linebackers Mike Kinville (Central Michigan), Butch Herzog (Hillsdale) and Justin D’Agostino (Hillsdale) sparked the unit and combined for more than 200 tackles.
“The most accurate way to describe our group of seniors that year would be scrappy and selfless,” Palazeti said. “We played physical on both sides of the ball.”
Palazeti says regaining stature as the signature smashmouth team in the state was a major motivating factor for the Shamrocks that season,
“There was this stigma hovering around us in the late 2000s that Catholic Central lost its toughness when it moved to Novi from Detroit in 2005, we all felt it coming into high school and my class made a commitment to each other and the program to change that impression and let everyone know CC football was still a force to be reckoned with on the football field. We had a throwback approach, an old-school mentality. We weren’t a roster filled with blue chip college recruits, we were just all-in for accomplishing the task at hand. People weren’t expecting much from us that year and all we did was blow the doors off everywhere we went in the state and forced people to respect and fear CC football again.”
Catholic Central beat Sterling Heights Stevenson 31-21 in the 2009 Division 1 state championship game. Palazeti rushed for 146 yards and imposed his will on many would-be tacklers in his final high school contest. Capatina, the lightning to Pslzeti’s thunder in the Shamrocks’ rushing assault, recorded 190 yards and a touchdown in the Ford Field affair.
Going on 13 years since raising that state-championship trophy, Capatina points out the bond that remains between him and his 2009 teammates.
“If we see or speak to each other, we don’t skip a beat, the bond we share is unbreakable,” he said. “That bond was the reason we won that state title. Experiencing all the ups and downs, achieving the ultimate goal together with your best friends, doing it at a school with the tradition that CC has, was such a positive thing for me in so many ways. I know we all feel that way and will cherish that state-championship run forever. A lot of that is because we did it together, we did it for each other.”
The mild-mannered Mach led the Catholic Central program from 1976 until his retirement in 2016. He is the fourth-winningest coach in the MHSAA record books with 370 victories.