COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. (WOOD) — It took all nine innings, but Grand Rapids Catholic Central hung on to beat Grand Rapids West Catholic 35-33 at Fifth Third Ballpark Friday night.
The biggest play of the game came with five minutes left. Leading 28-26 and facing third-and-27, Catholic Central Quarterback Jack Bowen hit Nate Trudeau on a 35-yard slant to keep the drive alive.
Two minutes later, Nolan Fugate reached the end zone for the third time, giving Catholic Central (8-0) a 35-26 lead over West Catholic (6-2) with 3:09 left.
“That was such a well-executed play by our kids,” Catholic Central Coach Todd Kolster said. “I’m really proud of Jack (Bowen). We talked all week about having to stand in there and take some shots and deliver the ball, he certainly did that tonight, and he did that in a big way on that play.”
Two quarters earlier, Catholic Central ripped off 21 straight points. After falling behind 7-0, Fugate scored twice in the second quarter, and Erik Grabow scooped up a fumble and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown.
West Catholic cut the lead to 21-14 just before halftime on a 52-yard touchdown pass from Gaetano Vallone to Nick Dorato, the second time they had connected for a score.
West Catholic had a chance to tie the game at 21-21 in the third quarter after a short touchdown run by Jack Lee, but the Falcons missed the extra point attempt.
Early in the fourth quarter West Catholic cut the lead to 28-26 on Zaavon Scott’s 12-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion to tie the game failed.
After Catholic Central took a 35-26 lead late in the fourth quarter, West Catholic answered. Vallone threw his third score of the night, connecting with Scott on an 18-yard pass.
Down 35-33 with 1:45 left and three timeouts, West Catholic chose not to try an onside kick. Catholic Central’s offense was able to pick up two first downs and run the clock out.
More than 7,000 fans packed Fifth Third Ballpark to watch the rivalry game.
“It was great to be part of,” Kolster said. “It’s a unique experience – not only for our kids, but for our fans.”
Kolster stressed that his team’s focus is on winning a conference title, not just beating a rival.
“We don’t have a goal to beat West Catholic, we have a goal to win an OK Blue Conference Championship,” he said. “This gets us one step closer.”
Catholic Central will try to finish the season undefeated next week against Coopersville. West Catholic travels to Allendale next week.