Wild ride comes to an end

Grand Rapids CC blanks Esky 24-0 in Division 4 state semis

Courtesy photo Anne Truitt Escanaba players get emotional after a 24-0 loss to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in Saturday’s Division 4 state semifinal game in Traverse City.

TRAVERSE CITY — Escanaba’s journey through the state football playoffs ran into a roadblock Saturday as it fell to Grand Rapids Catholic Central 24-0 in a Division 4 state semifinal contest at Thirlby Field.

The Eskymos, who managed just 122 yards and four first downs against a stingy Catholic Central defense, finished 10-3.

“This is much of the same as what we saw last year (in a 34-0 loss to the Cougars in the regional final),” said Esky coach Dave Howes. “They took away lot of the things we wanted to do. They executed their game plan. They have great athletes at every posiion it seems.”

Catholic Central (13-0) heads to Detroit’s Ford Field where it will try to defend its state title against Edwardsburg (12-1) Friday night.

Esky also didn’t have an answer for senior running back Nolan Fugate, who rushed for 247 yards and three touchdowns on 39 carries on the wet artificial turf.

Courtesy photo Anne Truitt Escanaba quarterback Craig Kamin (8) throws a pass to Hayden Haslow in Saturday’s Division 4 state semifinal game in Traverse City.

“Our offensive line has performed very solid all year, and it helps when you have a back like Nolan,” said GRCC coach Todd Kolston. “We knew we wanted to gut it out. That’s what we felt we could do.”

GRCC took a 10-0 lead with four minutes, 31 seconds left in the second quarter when Fugate scored on a five-yard run around right end.

University of Michigan recruit Jalen Mayfield set up the Cougars’ next score by recovering a fumble on the Esky nine-yard line with 3:36 left in the second.

“That was a great play for us and unfortunate for them,” said Kolston. “Jalen is a difference maker. He’s as good a football player as I’ve seen on the high school level. He’s going to the U-M for a reason. He works hard at his game.”

Seventy-four seconds later, Fugate plowed through the middle for a one-yard TD run and a 17-0 cushion.

“The ball got a little wet and it slipped through the quarterback’s fingers,” said Howes. “They jumped on it and scored. Our guys gave a great effort and brought the community together for the last three weeks. We just ran into a better team today. They did to us what we had been doing to other teams. Overall, we had a great season.”

Fugate concluded the scoring on a one-yard run though the right side with 5:22 remaining in the third frame.

GRCC opened with an 11-play drive, climaxed on a 23-yard field goal by senior kicker Alec WInden.

The Cougars finished with 352 yards in total offense, gaining 298 on the ground. Senior QB Jack Bowen completed 6-of-11 passes for 54 yards and an interception.

Esky’s lone trip into GRCC territory came in the final minute of the contest when senior Nick Onate dashed 61 yards along the left sideline to the Cougars’ six. The Eskymos, however, were unable to score.

The Eskymos finished with 86 yards rushing, with Onate gaining 64 on two carriers in a reserve rold. Kamin was 6-of-11 passing for 36 yards and an interception.

Senior safety Ryan Robinette accounted for Esky’s interception inside its five early in the second stanza.

GRCC dominated the time of possession, resulting in the Cougars running 63 offensive plays to Esky’s 33.

The summary:

Escanaba 0 0 0 0 — 0

Grand Rapids CC 3 14 0 7 — 24

Total offense: Grand Rapids Catholic Central 352 yards (298 rushing, 54 passing); Escanaba 122 yards (86 rushing, 36 passing).

Rushing — Grand Rapids Catholic Central (Fugate 39-247, Burns 1-15, Bowen 2-12, Wells 2-10, Winden 3-9, Trudeau 7-7, Passinault 2-3, Lambert 1-minus-5); Escanaba (Onate 2-64, Carroll 8-15, Silverstone 1-6, Wunder 2-5, Vandermissen 2-5, VanDrese 1-1, Bruntjens 2-minus-2, Kamin 4-minus-8).

Passing — Grand Rapids Catholic Central (Bowen 6-11, one interception); Escanaba (Kamin 6-11, one interception)

Receiving — Grand Rapids Catholic Central (Stickler 2-32, Twiss 2-13, Fugate 1-6, Burns 1-3); Escanaba (Wunder 3-29, Haslow 2-9, Claes (1-minus-2).