Lansing Catholic comes alive in the second half, tops Almont to move onto D-5 Final
Brighton – Saturday’s Division 5 semifinal between Lansing Catholic and Almont almost defined the common phrase “A tale of two halves”.
The first half belonged to Almont, where the Raiders went into halftime holding a 14-0 lead, while holding the Cougars to just 10 yards of offense.
The second half, however, was all Lansing Catholic as the Cougars scored 21 unanswered points behind the play of quarterback Tony Poljan and receiver Tony Palmer to pick up a 21-14 win over
Almont and advance to the Division 5 state championship game for the first time since 2011.
In the Division 5 title game, the Cougars will face defending champion Grand Rapids West Catholic, which is coming off of a 42-24 win over Menominee.
“We had trouble blocking them (Almont) early, so we went to our quick passing game in the second half,” said Lansing Catholic coach Jim Ahern. “That got some of our kids open and we were able to move the ball a little bit better and a couple of tweaks defensively at halftime. They’re a really good football team, they’re very quick and I’m just happy we have a chance to redeem ourselves from the mistakes we made a couple of years ago.”
Facing a 14-0 deficit to start the second half, Lansing Catholic went on a drive that lasted nearly six minutes and was capped off by a four yard touchdown run by Poljan, who high-stepped a would-be tackler and got to the corner and made his way into the end zone to cut the Almont lead down to 14-7 with 6:06 left in the third quarter.
Then, the Cougars went back to work late in the third quarter and early in the fourth as Poljan and Palmer connected on a handful of plays. Palmer would later take the ball all the way down to the Almont one as he made defenders miss and carried defenders to set up a one yard score by Poljan to tie the game at 14-14 with 9:02 left to play.
Poljan credited his linemen for the success the Cougars has in the second half and later added that he felt he and his teammates played even harder in the second half.
“The second half was a credit to our linemen,” he said. “They really picked it up and we got into a rhythm and everything just went from there.”
On the ensuing Almont drive, Lansing Catholic’s Ben Rashid came up with a highlight reel interception at the Almont 33 yard line to give the Cougars the ball back as they looked to take their first lead of the game.
After Poljan picked up a first down on fourth and one on a five yard run, the junior signal caller stood in the pocket while taking a hit and delivered a strike to Palmer for a 20 yard touchdown to give the Cougars a 21-14 lead with 5:58 left to play.
“We were running a boot-pass,” said Palmer of the play call on his touchdown reception. “Nobody had me in the flats and coach Ahern saw that. It was a great call, he saw it right away.”
With Almont making one final drive hoping to tie the game, Conner Rucinski came up with an interception with 3:24 for the Cougars to stop the Almont drive and all but seal the win for the Cougars as a first down run by Poljan put the game away.
In the first half, Almont jumped out to a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter on a two yard touchdown run by Nick Baker put the Raiders on top.
The Raiders then took a 14-0 lead just before halftime when Almont was driving inside the Lansing Catholic 10 when a fumble popped out and trickled into the end zone where Jake Zielinski recovered the fumble to extend the Almont lead.
“I think we kept them off balance,” said Almont coach Jeremy Ferman of his team’s offensive success in the first half. “Some of our Full-T stuff, our Jet stuff, we threw the ball a little bit for some pretty big pass plays and kept them off balance. But in the second half, we turned the ball over and that gave them momentum.”