Reed City falls to West Catholic in district final

REED CITY — Grand Rapids West Catholic continued its playoff hold on Reed City football with a 21-14 victory Friday night in the Division 5 district title game.

Reed City (10-1), in its quest for a second straight district title, ended its season. West Catholic (9-2), the two-time defending state champions, will play in the regional final this week.

“I’m very proud of our effort,” Reed City coach Monty Price said. “Our kids played very hard. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We stood toe-to-toe with West Catholic. They’re the premier program in Division 5. I’m proud of our kids. It’s unfortunate we have to send our seniors out like this.”

Andre Jones had two touchdown runs and an extra-point jaunt to give the Coyotes a 14-7 halftime lead. The Falcons had two first-half turnovers.

Reed City took the opening kickoff to West Catholic’s 5-yard line and was stopped. The Falcons had a 6-yard touchdown run by quarterback Gaetano Vallone and booted the PAT for a 7-0 lead.

Jones scored on a 17-yard scamper in the second quarter, but Reed City failed to get the conversion. Late in the half, the Coyotes’ Logan Straub recovered a fumble at the 50. Reed City drove to the end zone with Jones scoring from the 1. Reed City failed to get the conversion points, but the Falcons were called for a penalty. Jones got in for the two points and 14-7 lead with 37.4 seconds left in the half.

“We wanted to continue to do what we were doing in the first half,” Price said. “We felt good where we were at.”

Connor Bolthouse had an interception to set up West Catholic’s tying touchdown, a 13-yard run by Vallone. Liam Putz’ extra point made it 14-14.

“Gaetano has been playing well all year long,” West Catholic coach Dan Rohn said. “We put the ball in his hands for a reason because we expect him to make some plays.”

“He’s a pretty slippery fellow,” Price said. “He had a great game. Their offensive line did a good job creating some seams for him. They went into some double tight end formations which stretches us defensively. We had a hard time stopping that quarterback run.”

The Falcons were moving as the third quarter ended. Vallone’s 5-yard scoring run gave his team a 21-14 lead with 11:13 to play. The Coyotes fumbled it over in their own territory late in the quarter, but the Reed City defense held the Falcons.

With time winding down, West Catholic picked off a Leland Yonkin pass attempt and was able to record several first downs to run out the clock.

“We came out the second half, put the ball on the ground a couple of times and threw it in their hands instead of ours,” Price said. “We also had a couple of penalties, but I want to make it clear they weren’t foolish penalties, they were effort penalties. But it didn’t go our way. That’s the game of football and that’s how it goes. These kids are champions in my book.”

“Everything goes to the defense,”  Rohn said. “Our defense came out in the second half and held them scoreless. We put up enough points to get the win.”

Defensively in the second half, “we moved our D linemen in a little tighter, different shades, different alignments, and tried to take away from the trap a little more,” Rohn said. “We also stopped killing ourselves on offense by turning the ball over. Those two turnovers in the first half were pretty important.”

Jones gained 124 yards on 19 carries. Collin Hatfield carried it 20 times for 90 yards. Yonkin had two completions for 35 yards. Trent Sturgell had one catch for 37 yards. The other catch was for minus two yards.

“I thought we had every chance in the world to win this game,” Price said. “We just didn’t make a few plays when we needed to and had a couple of things not go our way. You change a few plays here or there and it can be a different game.”

The Coyotes were coming off their fourth 9-0 regular-season in the last five years and their fifth straight Central State Activities Association title.

West Catholic was 14-0 last season and defeated the Coyotes 56-28 in the regional final. The Falcons, 3-0 against the Coyotes in playoffs, also beat Reed City 42-7 in the 2011 districts.

“What Monty has been doing here is incredible,” Rohn said. “I have nothing but respect for this program, this school, this community. I played them a lot when I was at Fremont. They’re close. They’re going to turn the corner. We knew it was going to be a battle.”