GR West Catholic wins 5th consecutive state title

Grand Rapids West Catholic defeated Saginaw Swan Valley for a state championship at Ford Field in Detroit on Nov. 25, 2017.

DETROIT (WOOD) — The drive for five has been completed, and senior quarterback Gaetano Vallone was the one behind the wheel.

Grand Rapids West Catholic rolled past Saginaw Swan Valley 34-7 Saturday night in the Division 5 state championship game at Ford Field and became a part of Michigan High School Athletic Association history.

The Falcons joined East Grand Rapids and Farmington Hills Harrison as the only MHSAA schools to win five state titles in a row.

“I’m very proud of the way our kids came out and seized the opportunity to win a championship,” West Catholic coach Joe Hyland said. “We were all aware of the historic occasion that potentially could be, but I’m really proud of our staff and our kids for putting that to the side and focusing on what we needed to do on a play-by-play basis.”

Vallone, a three-year starter, completed 10-of-14 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 60 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown.

“It’s crazy, and I’m really proud of our guys and how far we have come,” Vallone said. “It’s been an unbelievable experience, and I’m honored to see West Catholic up there at the top now with those other teams. It’s great for us, it’s great for the football program and it’s great for our community.”

Vallone is believed to be the first area quarterback to win three consecutive state titles. He helped rally the Falcons back from a 21-0 deficit in the semifinals.

“The one thing I was thinking and most excited about was that the state was going to get to see No. 2 play again,” Hyland said. “You’ve seen him the last three years and he is an unbelievable playmaker. The best competitor I’ve ever been around at any level, and thanks be to God he has been on our side because you saw today what an advantage it is for us.”

West Catholic jumped out to a commanding 24-0 lead at the half with big plays on both sides of the ball.

Vallone opened the scoring with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Zach Lee and it was followed by a 21-yard field goal by Liam Putz to make it 10-0 in the first quarter.

The Falcons increased their advantage in the second as Zaavon Scott intercepted a Swan Valley pass and raced 29 yards for the defensive score.

West Catholic wasn’t finished, and it took only two plays.

Vallone went up to junior Jack Schichtel, who made a one-handed catch around the defender from 28-yards out with less than 30 seconds remaining in the half to stake West Catholic to the 24-0 cushion.

“I’m just happy about it,” Schichtel said. “Before every game, coach Hyland is always telling us to make plays when you can. And I’m just happy that Gaetano was able to put it on me and I was able to bring it in.”

In the second half, Vallone scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to make it 31-0 and Lutz added another field goal from 29 yards out.

“I’m very excited of the fact that all three phases of our game really locked it in at the right time,” Hyland said. “The biggest game of the year, all three phases were playing their very best.”