Catholic Central rides defense to Division 4 state crown

The Cougars (13-1) captured their first Division 4 state title since 2010

Grand Rapids Catholic Central wins Division 4 state championship on Nov. 25, 2016, it's the first state title win since 2010.

DETROIT (WOOD) — The Catholic Central football team struggled offensively in Friday night’s Division 4 state championship game against Detroit Country Day.

Fortunately, the Cougars’ defense performed liked it has all season.

Catholic Central didn’t allow an offensive score and recorded 11 sacks in a thrilling 10-7 victory over the Yellowjackets at Ford Field.

The Cougars (13-1) captured their first Division 4 state title since 2010, while ending Detroit Country Day’s attempt at a perfect season.

“Our defense has given us a chance to win every week and tonight was no different,” Cougars coach Todd Kolster said. “We know that’s the strength of our program right now. It’s a great team win because those guys buy into one another and hats off to our kids. They played their hearts out and I’m so proud of our kids.”

The Cougars, who managed only one first down and 60 yards of total offense, limited the YellowJackets to negative yards on the ground in the first half, but still trailed.

A 58-yard punt return from Antonio Strong set up a 31-yard field goal by Josh Steffes and gave Catholic Central a 3-0 lead in the first quarter.

Detroit Country answered with a big defensive play of its own as Roy McCree IV intercepted Cougars’ quarterback Jack Bowen and raced 80 yards for the touchdown to put the Yellowjackets on top 7-3.

It remained that way until the fourth quarter when the momentum changed.

The Cougars forced a Detroit Country Day fumble and turned it into their only points of the game. Quarterback Jack Bowen tossed a 44-yard touchdown pass to Michael Brown early in the final quarter.

The defense took care of the rest.

“That fumble recovery was huge, a big play by our defense,” junior Aidan Burns said. “All year our defense has been the catalyst of what we’ve done, especially in the playoffs. They showed up and saved us.

“They kept us in the game long enough so our offense could make a play.”

Strong intercepted Detroit Country Day quarterback Steve Mann with 3:11 remaining in regulation to thwart a drive, and Catholic Central’s defense sealed it with a sack in the final minute.

“Our defense is unbelievable, and we held them to zero points,” Strong said. “We shut them down on defense and this is an unbelievable feeling. We put in the work, we believed in ourselves and we got the job done.”

Brown said the offense tried to stay patient despite its lack of production early.

“We just had to hang in there, hang in there,” he said. “We’re not used to that, but we knew if we kept pounding it we would get it done. This is the best game I’ve ever played in my life and I will never forget it.”

The Cougars surrendered only 17 points in five games during their run to a state crown.

**Correction: This article previously stated Catholic Central had 14 sacks. They actually had 11. The text has been updated.