Grand Rapids C.C. defense leads way to Div. 4 title

With just 60 yards of total offense and one first down, Grand Rapids Catholic Central (13-1) captured the Division 4 championship with a 10-7 win over Birmingham Detroit Country Day Friday night at Ford Field.

“Our defense has played well and has given us an opportunity every time," said CC coach Todd Kolster. “Our offense has been opportunistic. That’s what I will say. They did a nice job making a couple of plays."

The 173 yards of total offense between the two teams became the new low, set back in the 1981 Class B game between Farmington Hills Harrison and Muskegon Catholic (196), according to the MSHAA. Flint Holy Rosary had four first downs in 1975; a record which also fell.

“It’s very disappointing to finish like this," said Country Day coach Dan MacLean

The Cougars had come in to the championship game having allowed just 10 points in four playoff games. But their offense failed to get a first down in the first three quarters against Country Day (13-1).

Catholic Central’s initial first down was a beauty. It came on a 44-yard TD pass from quarterback Jack Bowen to Michael Brown with 11 minutes, 11 seconds to play in the game, giving the dormant Cougars’ offense the lead.

The scoring drive was set up when Steve Mann fumbled with Jalen Mayfield recovering.

“The corner was playing kind of hard and we kept running the ball," said Brown. “We knew soon or a later we could get them on play action. We knew coming in both teams had great defenses and it would come down to the fourth quarter. We got it done in the fourth quarter and came out victorious."

The Cougars sealed the deal when a pass intended for Jack Foster was tipped into the hands of Antonio Strong, who returned it 35 yards to the Country Day 15 with 3:11 left.

“Everybody was just doing their job," said Strong. “We knew they had two good quarterbacks and we knew we had to stop them. I think they ran an out an up (on the interception). I was in cover three and I just broke on the ball. He tipped it, I caught it and I tried to go score a touchdown. We stopped the quarterbacks and that was the key."

Country Day finished the first half with 40 yards of total offense, while the Cougars had none but trailed by just four. CC hounded the Yellowjackets offense with 11 sacks.

Strong gave the offense a boost when he returned a punt 54 yards to the Country Day six with 2:38 left in the first quarter.

The Cougars turned it into a 31-yard field goal by Josh Steffes with 1:18 left in the first to make it 3-0.

The Catholic Central defense held the Yellowjackets to minus-four yards in the first quarter, and early in the second quarter got an interception from Anthony Kukis to end a possible threat.

Jalen Graham was under center and was visibly upset when he was dropped for a 16-yard loss back to his own six midway through the second quarter.

Two plays later, the Cougars’ defense teed off on the sophomore, dropping him at the three.

Catholic Central got another strong punt return from Strong, setting up the offense at the Country Day 19.

When all looked lost, Roy McCree IV intercepted a Jack Bowen pass and returned it 82 yards for a score with 4:54 left in the first half to give the Yellowjackets a 7-3 lead, despite picking up zero yards on offense.

Catholic Central fumbled on its next possession and Country Day recovered with 3:19 left in the half.


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