They are the new kids on the block and eager to establish their identity in athletics.
The Father McGivney Catholic High Griffins began a sports program from the ground in hopes of taking it to the top. Athletics director Henry Johnson, 62, a former AD at Mascoutah High, figures they can develop a spirited and successful one.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of time for the school of 125 students. Father McGivney High, constructed in 2015, is positioned between Maryville and Glen Carbon off Old Troy Road. It’s just a stone’s throw away from the Triad School District.
“We started some varsity athletic events last year and this year is the first one for some of our other sports,” Johnson said. “We started baseball and volleyball this year and next year will be our first year of varsity basketball.”
The Griffins offer boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ cross country, boys’ and girls’ soccer, baseball, boys’ bowling, boys’ swimming, girls’ volleyball, cheerleading and boys’ bass fishing.
And yes, Father McGivney already has a state champion. Ethan Jones finished first in the IHSA bass fishing contest last year at Carlyle Lake.
“It’s our oldest varsity sport,” Johnson quipped.
Jones, a junior, doesn’t intend to be the Griffins’ final state champ, either. Father McGivney is angling to be competitive in all sports. Football isn’t in the foreseeable future, but the school’s growth since 2012, when it started with 19 students at the St. John Neumann School in Maryville location, could turn the improbable into the possible.
“Our goal is to have three levels of athletics — varsity, junior varsity and freshmen-sophomore — and be competitive,” Johnson said. “We want to have enough kids to participate at every level.”
He added, “It’s a great opportunity for young kids to get a good education. We will have 17 seniors graduating this year and 16 of them will go on to college. It’s a special class because it’s the first one that has gone through the school for four years. The students are good ambassadors for us.”
More are on the way. Of those 125 students, 60 are freshmen.
Johnson’s putting his 38 years of high school experience into the Father McGivney plan. Principal Mike Scholz has 41 years of experience, so they make a good team, Johnson said.
“I worked with Mike at Mascoutah,” said Johnson, also a former Gillespie High administrator. “There are a lot of intriguing things about working here and we are building something from scratch.
“It’s not like you are filling someone else’s shoes.”
Rich Beyers (boys’ basketball), Jason Schreder (girls’ basketball and baseball), Marissa Guiffre (cross country), Tim Vance (soccer), Amanda Pirih (girls’ volleyball), Howard Harris (swimming and diving), Alyssa Price (competitive cheerleading), Scholz (boys’ golf) and Johnson (boys’ bowling) are serving as head coaches.
Beyers may be remembered as the pivotal player on the 1995-96 Shelbyville High team that won the Class A state basketball championship and finished 34-1. Shelbyville defeated Breese Mater Dei, 58-45, in the Illinois finals. Beyers later went on to play collegiate basketball at Illinois and Illinois State.
“There’s a lot of potential here,” Johnson said of the schools’ overall sports programs. “We are centrally located and kids will have an opportunity to come to our school and build a program.”
Father McGivney expects to attract most of its students from Madison County, particularly Edwardsville, Collinsville, Troy, Granite City and Highland.
“In five years, we hope to have 400 students,” he said.
The more students, the better the Griffins intend to become. Father McGivney is an independent, yet has designs on joining a conference someday. The Prairie State might be a fit, Johnson said.
“When we get to 300 or 400 students, we could look at it,” Johnson said of a conference affiliation. “But we have to build some programs first and it’s going to take some time.”
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