Lansing Catholic had pinned Olivet back at its 8-yard line with five minutes to play, and hoped to get the football back quickly for a chance to tie the game.
But after the Eagles got just one yard on first down, senior running back Nick Coolidge broke a tackle and ran 91 yards for a touchdown that secured a 28-14 victory for Olivet.
Coolidge finished with 287 yards rushing on 25 carries as the Eagles won a Division 2 district semifinal on Friday night at Holt Junior High. Olivet (7-3) plays at Portland (9-1) next in the second round.
“I went to the hole, followed Donny (Kyre), the hole opened up at the last second, I bounced off one guy and went the whole way,” Coolidge said. “I was thinking we could put it away right there, and I needed to get all the way in.”
“He’s very capable of doing that,” Olivet’s 26th-year coach Dean Peters said. “He’s just an incredibly hard-working young man with a great attitude. I couldn’t be happier to see someone be successful and step up big as a senior in a game like this.”
Both Coolidge and Peters praised the Eagles’ offensive line.
“Don Kyre and Ric McKim did a great job at tackle today,” Peters said. “Those are big, physical kids. We were hoping they could control the line of scrimmage, and they did it the whole game.”
The victory was especially sweet for Olivet, because Lansing Catholic rallied to beat the Eagles 55-41 in their Division 5 playoff opener a year ago.
“Last year, we had them down 10 in the third quarter and let it get away from us,” Peters said. “That’s a great program. They went all the way to Ford Field last year.”
The Cougars (8-2) were playing without standout running back/receiver Jack Swain, who was injured on Monday and will be out for a month.
“I was warming up on squats, and my knee cracked and popped and I felt a pinching,” he said. “The cartilage at the end of my femur is chipped, and there’s a torn meniscus.”
“Their line played well, and they ran the ball well, and that didn’t have anything to do with Jack not being there,” Lansing Catholic coach Jim Ahern said. “If we missed him anywhere, it was his speed in the defensive secondary.”
Olivet took a 14-0 lead on a 3-yard run by junior Shane Loney on its first drive, and a 41-yard run by Coolidge.
The Cougars tied it on a 15-yard run by quarterback Brock Rucinski before halftime, and a 7-yard run by Austin Schertzing in the third quarter.
Coolidge ran 20 yards for a TD to put the Eagles ahead for good at 21-14 with 9:17 remaining.
“We just didn’t do some of the stuff we’ve been doing all year very well tonight,” Ahern said. “Sometimes that happens with kids in a playoff game.
“But our goal every year is to win our conference, and we did that. I’m proud of these seniors and the whole team.”