Grand Rapids Catholic Central opens new stadium with 27-6 win over East Grand Rapids
GRAND RAPIDS — It’s been 110 years in the making.
For the first time in it’s century-plus existence, the Grand Rapids Catholic Central football team has a home of its own with the opening of Cougar Stadium this year.
And the Cougars, who have had to play their home games in a number of high school football fields throughout West Michigan during all of those years, proved that having a home of your own, and true home-field advantage, can be a powerful thing.
Hosting long-time rival and perennial state power East Grand Rapids Friday night in front of a standing-room only crowd of 8,519 fans, Catholic Central jumped out to a quick two-score lead in the first quarter, and cruised to a 27-6 victory over the Pioneers — a Pioneers team who had beaten them four of the last five meetings.
"Really proud of our guys, who really played so hard," Catholic Central coach Todd Kolster said. "We had a lot of mistakes, some things not go our way, but some things go our way, I just think it was two teams playing so hard, so emotional, our guys made more good plays and came out on top."
Of course emotional, with the christening of a beautiful new stadium in front of such a large crowd.
"Our kids have so much pride in this place," Kolster said. "They saw 29 Hall of Fame inductees a week ago, they saw 22 booster Hall of Fame inductees and they see the plaques around the stadium. They know the history, the understand the tradition. Heck, we have (former Notre Dame coach) Knute Rockne quotes about Catholic Central in our team room."
Call it tradition, emotion, or just some good old fashion hard-nose football, but the Cougars pushed around East Grand Rapids for a good portion of the game, especially in the first quarter when they scored two touchdowns, one a 1-yard run by junior fullback Nolan Fugate, and the other a 59-yard touchdown reception by Antonio Strong from quarterback Jack Bowen.
From there, Catholic Central’s defense took over for the next two quarters, led by junior defensive lineman Jalen Mayfield, who was consistently in the East Grand Rapids offensive backfield wreaking havoc.
Mayfield had two sacks, several quarterback pressures, and a tipped pass that led to a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown by senior linebacker Max Vicari late in the fourth quarter that sealed the win.
"The atmosphere here tonight was unbelievable," Mayfield said. "Just having all of this, I want to thank all the donors. This place is unbelievable, and the energy was so up."
Catholic Central’s other touchdown came in the third quarter on a fumble recovery by senior linebacker Anthony Shukis in the end zone after the East Grand Rapids center snapped the ball over quarterback Michael Malawitz’s head.
The Pioneers did get om the scoreboard in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard run by senior running back Hub Hejna run, and were driving to make it a one-score game late in the fourth, but pressure by Mayfield and the Cougars defensive line caused an incomplete pass in the end zone, stopping any kind of momentum.