The Grand Rapids Catholic Central Cougars and West Catholic Falcons squared off on Friday night in an epic battle of heavyweights. Billed as a possible State Championship game in the regional finals, the game lived up to every ounce of the hype.
West Catholic struck first in this game. Halfway through the opening stanza, Charlie DeBruyn bowled across the goal line from a yard out, giving the Falcons a 7-0 advantage.
Catholic Central responded with a drive that reached the WC 9 yard line, but stalled. Conor Neilson booted a field goal to get the Cougars on the board.
GRCC appeared to seize some momentum in the second quarter when Austin Baxter stepped in front of a Falcons’ pass for an interception. That was quickly quashed when Nolan Rinehart scooped up the loose fumble and returned it for a touchdown, giving West a 14-3 lead.
The Cougars had another long drive, reaching the West Catholic 3, but once again it stalled. On fourth down, their conversion attempt failed, giving West another pivotal goal line stand. GRCC’s defense stepped up again, this time forcing a three and out.
With a short field after West punted from their own end zone, the Cougars capitalized. Kellen Russell-Dixon found the end zone on a 9-yard carry. This brought CC within four, 14-10, with four minutes to go until halftime.
GRCC was able to get the football back, and kept their momentum rolling. They returned to the end zone with a 2-yard shovel pass touchdown from Conner Wolf to Russell-Dixon. This late score gave the Cougars their first lead, a 17-14 advantage they would take into the locker room.
The Cougars run would continue in the second half. Midway through the third quarter, Wolf found Raef Goosen for a 6-yard touchdown strike. This gave the Cougars 21 unanswered points and a 24-14 lead.
With 83 seconds left in the third, West finally snapped the run. Charlie DeBruyn returned to the end zone with another 1-yard rumble. The score would hold 24-21 in favor of the Cougars with a quarter to play.
Both teams struggled to get things going in the early portions of the fourth. With 3:49 to go, DeBruyn scored his third touchdown of the evening with another 1-yard run powering through the Cougars’ front line. West Catholic had snagged the lead back, jumping ahead 28-24.
Catholic Central would take advantage of their opportunity to respond, marching down the field in short time. With 1:15 to play, Connor Wolf used his legs for a 6-yard carry. The Cougars went for two, and the attempt failed. As a result, GRCC’s lead was just two, 30-28, giving the Falcons the ball and a chance for a game-winning drive.
The Falcons got rolling, and made their way into GRCC territory. Facing fourth down, they were unable to convert, falling a half-yard short at the Cougars’ 42-yard line.
With the win in this epic chapter of the City rivalry, the Cougars secure their eighth straight regional title. They will play the winner of Saturday’s semifinal between Kingsford and Frankenmuth in next Saturday’s semis.