GRCC captures second consecutive state title

Grand Rapids Catholic Central football celebrates its 2017 state championship at Ford Field in Detroit on Nov. 24, 2017.

DETROIT (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Catholic Central captured its second straight Division 4 state championship Friday night in a wild 42-31 win over Edwardsburg Friday night at Ford Field.

Senior running back Nolan Fugate rushed for a game-high 306 yards on 36 carries and accounted for five touchdowns.

Fugate finished one yard shy of a state record in the championship game behind Constantine’s Jim Schragg, who rushed for 307 yards in 2004.

He is only the third player in Michigan High School Athletic Association history to score five touchdowns in a title game.

“The first one is really special, but being a senior and being a leader of this team, I can’t put into words how special it is,” Fugate said. “I love my teammates, I love my coaches and I’m at a loss for words.”

Fugate rushed for a mere 21 yards on six carries in last year’s 10-7 win over Detroit Country Day in the state finals.

He made up for it this year with a sterling performance. He scored on runs of one, five, 54 and 32 yards. Fugate also caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jack Bowen in the first quarter.

“I was definitely motivated,” Fugate said. “I knew last year I did not play good at all and I had a chip on my shoulder. I wanted to come out and play the best I could.”

Fugate’s final score, a 32-yard scamper with less than five minutes remaining, helped seal the victory after the Eddies rallied to trim the Catholic Central lead to 35-31 after back-to-back touchdowns by Kyle Shrider and Nick Bradley.

“When the game is on the line, I want the ball,” Fugate said. “Our offense just focused on the next play and we executed when we needed to.”

GRCC trailed 13-7 in the second quarter, but answered with touchdown runs by Fugate and Erik Grabow.

The Cougars led 35-19 in the third before Edwardsburg’s comeback attempt.

Fugate rushed for nearly 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns this season.

“He’s had one heck of a five weeks here, and we needed every one of them,” Catholic Central coach Todd Kolster said. “He’s earned every bit of it, and our offensive line has been great.”

It’s the program’s fourth state title in school history and third in the last eight seasons. However, it’s the first time the school has gone back-to-back.

“It’s never been done and I’m really proud to be a part of this,” Kolster said.