GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A quarterback who hadn’t played in weeks returned to lead West Catholic over Catholic Central in front of 10,339 fans at Cougar Stadium.
With less than nine minutes to go, it looked like Catholic Central (7-1, 4-1) may ruin Gaetano Vallone’s return to the field. The Cougars were marching in the red zone down 6-3, threatening to take their first lead over West Catholic (7-1, 5-0).
On fourth down from the 10 yard line, Catholic Central decided not to try game-tying field goal and instead go for the touchdown. Jack Bowen’s fourth down pass fell incomplete near the goal line.
Three plays later, Vallone launched a deep ball down the sideline that narrowly slipped over the fingertips of two Catholic Central defenders and into the outstretched arms of Wide Receiver Sam Neville. Neville then took off, scoring a 90-yard touchdown, giving West Catholic a 13-3 lead with 6:49 left.
“I knew Sam was going to make a play on it and I just had to get it up to him,” Gaetano said.
“I trusted G,” Neville said of his junior quarterback. “He put the ball in the air. He didn’t want to lay me out or anything. I just went up and grabbed it.”
Catholic Central’s chance at a comeback ended quickly. The Cougars fumbled at their own 10 yard line on the next drive.
Gaetano then scored the dagger on a 10-yard run right up the middle of the Cougar defense, giving West Catholic a 20-3 lead with 5:57 left.
Gaetano hadn’t played since suffering a fractured elbow in the season opener. He said after the game that he didn’t feel like he had any rust, but he did have some butterflies.
“I was a little nervous,” Gaetano said. “The guys really helped me out – we just had to stick to the game plan.”
Outside of that 3 minute stretch in the fourth quarter, the game was extremely even. Catholic Central outgained West Catholic 216-215. West Catholic punted 6 times compared to Catholic Central’s 5.
It was the first time the rivals had played since 2009, and their first meeting at Catholic Central’s new stadium.
“It’s a beautiful place,” Neville said. “They have a beautiful environment. We’re lucky to be a part of it.”
West Catholic finishes the regular season next week at Allendale. Catholic Central hosts Coopersville.