WAUKESHA — A chant echoed across the confines of Carroll University’s Schneider Stadium on Friday night.
The chorus was the Catholic Memorial High School football team, which moments earlier completed a 49-0 WIAA Division 4, Level 1 playoff romp over Martin Luther.
And the chant? “Grand-pa! Grand-pa! Grand-pa!” celebrating the 400th victory in Bill Young’s 46 years as coach of the Crusaders.
Young’s family members, assistant coaches from past and present and alumni flooded the field to extend congratulations to the man of the hour, who was asked what thoughts his latest milestone might conjure up before his head hit the pillow a few hours later.
“I’m the only one who’s been here the whole time, but I’ve been really fortunate to coach so many great players and have a lot of great players come back and coach with me,” said Young, who made his debut as head coach in 1978. “Mike Kinateder, Greg Gamalski, Bobby Vitale, Nick Vitale, Ryan Stefaniak, Mitch Schultz, Eddie Baumann. … We’ve had some great guys come through our program.
“My wife, Gail, is the superstar of our program. It’s really hard on her at times because I’m a nut job. For me to have this opportunity to coach for such a long time is real special.”
Two of the propellers of Young’s 400th win were senior running back Corey Smith, who caught a 74-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback MJ Mitchell to open the scoring, and senior defensive back Josh Oechsner, who returned the first of the Crusaders’ three interceptions 9 yards for the team’s second score.
They shared their reverence for Young afterward.
“He’s a big role model in my life,” said Smith, playing his second game since sitting out the previous seven after breaking his collarbone in CMH’s season opener Aug. 18. “He teaches me a lot of discipline and to never be lazy. That’s the main thing he tell us. And he expects us to be on time and do everything the right way.”
Oechsner vividly remembers his introduction to Young.
“Grade school track meets were run at CMH,” Oechsner said. “At one of those meets, our AD, Matt Bergan, brought me up to Coach Young and said, ‘This is the youngest of the Oechsners. He’s gonna be here someday.’ Just seeing how all of the players respected him, you knew he was a legit coach.
“My oldest brother, Michael, was on the team for Coach’s 300th win. So it’s been Michael, Joe, Alex and me playing safety for the past 100 wins. It’s really a tradition. The motto that we have on our shirts this year is ‘Pride Still Matters,’ and that’s the definition of it.”
Young’s 400th career coaching win was the eighth in a row this season for his Parkland Conference champions. The Crusaders, seeded second in their WIAA playoff bracket, will put their 8-2 ledger up against sixth-seeded Lake Mills (6-4) in a Level 2 tilt next Friday.
They followed a traditional credo to move on.
“Our approach is survive and advance,” Oechsner said. “When we’re in the huddle after the game talking, we always ask coach if we’ve got practice tomorrow, just to see if we’re still alive. We love it.
“We go into games knowing we’re favored to win, but we have to take every opponent really seriously, do our prep during the week, really prepare and come out hard on Fridays.”
The Crusaders packed a wallop in their 2023 playoff debut.
Martin Luther reached CMH territory on the game’s opening drive before being set back by three penalties, then Oechsner recovered a fumble to put the Crusaders in business at their 31-yard line. An infraction pushed CMH back five yards, but Smith, split wide right, beat his defender on a go route, hauled in a strike from Mitchell and sped into the south end zone.
Smith revisited his injury, the time he spent sidelined and his welcome-back TD Friday.
“I got tackled and landed wrong and my collarbone broke,” he said. “Actually, I didn’t know it was broken until the following Saturday. I woke up and it didn’t feel right, so I went to the doctor. He originally told me it would be four to six weeks (to heal), but then they pushed it to 10 to 12. I had to wait for my time. It was stressful, but I watched my brothers succeed.
“I finally got some good touches and good runs. I’m so happy to be back. Seventyfour yards. … it was a fun experience. I didn’t really show it, though, because it was just business.”
Young certainly welcomed back the Penn State commit.
“Corey Smith is special,” Young said. “When you lose a guy of his skill level for seven games, it’s tough.
“We’re glad to have him back.”
Oechsner’s pick-six was the first of two for the Crusaders — junior Damyias Lopez came up with the other and raced 51 yards diagonally to paydirt with 11:43 remaining in the second quarter behind an escort of blockers to help extend the margin to 21-0.
“We had a great play call on,” Oechsner said of his interception and return. “My responsibility was the flat. I sliced right down into the right position and made a play. My coaches put me in that spot.
“When your coach has 400 wins, you know your coaches are doing the right things.
“We forced five turnovers — two forced fumbles and three interceptions. Matt Miklosy, our middle linebacker, hadn’t had a pick in two years of starting until tonight. That was a great play by him off the RPO (run/pass option), which was awesome for him. He’s a great player.”
CMH extended its advantage to 35-0 by halftime after getting touchdown runs of five yards from senior Xavier McClinton and 16 yards from Smith.
The Crusaders added two scores in the third quarter on a 1-yard pass from Mitchell to junior Marvanous Butler and a 3-yard run by freshman Harold Lewis as the continuous clock ran for the entire second half.
Young talked afterwards about the strides his team has made since opening the season with losses of 31-24 to Franklin and 35-0 to Marquette.
“We tried to do the KM model and play 14, 16 guys, but we went back to two-platoon after our two consecutive losses to start the season,” he said. “Our defensive coordinator, Ryan Stefaniak, was emphatic about the fact that we needed to get our best guys just doing one thing. Since then, we’re playing much, much better.
“Damyias (Lopez) has been a terrific corner for us. He had two pick-sixes during league play. I really attribute a lot of our success to Ryan Stefaniak’s schemes. Mitch Schultz is our secondary guy and coach ‘Maz’ (defensive line coach Jeff Mazurczak) has done a great job.
“I’m really proud of how our kids are getting better every time.”
The coach also took a few moments to reflect on his career.
“Everybody looks for different slogans and buzzwords,” Young said. “To me, Catholic Memorial has always been a family. When we won our first state championship back in ’79, we made T-shirts reading ‘We Are Family’. This really is a family.
“I’ve been blessed to have really a great coaching staff and great athletic directors. We’ve had so many guys who played in our program and came back and wanted to help. That’s extremely rewarding.”
A dwindling number of coaches are staying in the profession long enough to coach fathers and their sons. Young was asked what has enabled him to keep going.
“I have such respect and admiration for the game of football,” he said. “I’ve been all over the country. I went to USC. I went to Michigan 35 years in a row. I’ve been to seven NFL camps. John Spytek, one of my former players, is director of pro personnel with Tampa Bay.
“I’ve been all over the place and met a lot of pro and college coaches. I just love the game of football. Eleven guys have to work together. Guys are going to try to punch you in the mouth. … it’s real physical. I love the game and I love the preparation.”
It was clear as the sky above Friday night that CMH Nation loves Bill Young.