REED CITY – The Central State Activities Association Gold Division title was already safely in Reed City’s possession coming into Friday’s regular-season finale against Grant.

But finishing the regular season at 6-0 and entering next week’s first round playoff game with solid momentum was the key goal for the Coyotes, facing a dangerous Grant team which was 2-2, with one of those losses being a forfeit.

The Coyotes trailed early but pulled out the win 36-20.

“It was a really tough team, hats off to Grant,” RC coach Scott Shankel said. “It was a good game to get ready for the playoffs. It was a tough team. They’ll do some damage in the playoffs.”

Mistakes in the punting game nearly cost the Coyotes. Early in the game, a fake punt didn’t work and gave Grant a short field, leading to a touchdown run by Brandon Keelean and a 7-0 Tiger lead.

A mishandled snap on a Reed City punt attempt gave Grant the ball at the RC 27. Isaac Williams had an interception for the Coyotes.

Noah Jones had a 20-yard run to the Grant 4-yard-line early in the second and later scored on a 1-yard run. The two-point conversion with Xavier Allen passing to Landon Tomaski made it 8-7, which is how it stood at halftime.

Tomaski had an electrifying 65-yard touchdown kickoff return to open the second half. Payton Hansen’s 2-point run made it 16-7.

Late in the third, Grant got the ball on the Coyote 10 on another mishandled snap on a punt attempt. Orion Evans had a 4-yard touchdown run but the PAT try failed, making, it 16-13.

“I was a rough night on getting the snap, just a couple of mishaps,” Shankel said.

Late in the third, Noah Jones had a 63-yard scoring run for the 22-13 lead.

Midway in the fourth, Grant scored on Keelean’s 4-yard keeper with 4:34 to play, making it 22-20. Reed City recovered the onside kick and drove to the Grant 1 from where Tomaski had a scoring plunge. The try for points failed and Grant, trailing 28-20 with 2:30 to go, still had a chance. But Seth Jackson intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 40 yards for the touchdown.

Alex Wirgau ran for the two points.

Jackson intercepted another pass later in the game.

“It starts with our D line,” Jackson said. “They rush the quarterback. It’s all them. The pick 6, I had to read my blocks and cut inside.”

He’s had five interceptions this season.

Reed City rushed 44 times for 280 yards. Jones had 13 carries for 132 yards and two TDs. Tomaski had 13 carries for 61 yards and 1 TD. Hansen had nine carries for 60 yards.

“Our defense stepped up when we needed them to at the end of the game there,” Shankel said.

Wirgau had 11 tackles and Teddy Cross had six.

“We told our kids all week this was our league championship here,” Shankel said. “We knew we had clinched it. But this was the championship game. We knew Grant had some COVID issues we’re trying to stay away from.”

Reed City opens the playoffs at home against Cheboygan on Friday.