Head coach Gabe Priddy was hoping his Olivet High School football team could finally get the better of postseason nemesis Grand Rapids West Catholic on Saturday.
But despite a third-quarter comeback, the Eagles were not able to keep their season alive as they fell 35-14 to the Falcons in an MHSAA Division 5 regional championship matchup.
Olivet — tri-champs of the KVA with Pennfield and Schoolcraft this fall — ended its campaign with a 10-2 record. West Catholic (8-4), state runner-up in 2012, advanced to the semifinal round where it will next take on Livonia Clarenceville (12-0).
Saturday’s was the second playoff game between the Eagles and the Falcons in four years. In 2010, Grand Rapids West Catholic defeated Olivet in the D-5 title game at Detroit’s Ford Field.
And on Saturday — on a seasonally-comfortable afternoon with the temperatures in the 50s — the Falcons looked as though they were going to fly away from the Eagles early on.
But after being down 14-0 at halftime and 21-0 early in the third quarter, Olivet got to within 21-14 before West Catholic pulled away.
“Our 17 seniors this year were especially really motivated to play well and do well after remembering how they beat us at Ford Field when they were freshmen,” Priddy said. “And that senior leadership was a big reason why we were as successful as we were… and we gave them a good game today.
“It’s obviously a tough loss for us… but overall we had an outstanding season. And now, as I told the kids after the game, I’m hoping all my seniors can take what they’ve learned about leadership into their adult lives with their families and be positive influences.”
All of the scoring in Saturday’s game was done in the north end zone — mainly because there was a 15- to 25-mph wind coming out of the south, which disrupted the play flow for both teams when they were heading toward the south end.
West Catholic took a 7-0 lead with 5:06 left in the first quarter on a 15-yard run by Andy Corey, and made it 14-0 with 7:14 remaining in the second on a 6-yard run by quarterback Travis Russell. The Falcons also missed out on another touchdown in the first quarter when Corey fumbled out of the end zone for a touchback; and Olivet senior Tyler Masters intercepted a Russell pass to thwart another potential West Catholic scoring drive in period two.
Meanwhile, Olivet’s offense was able to cross the 50-yard line just once in the first half.
Then, after the Falcons made it 21-0 on their first drive of the second half via a 7-yard TD run by Russell with 9:34 to go in the third, the Eagles’ fortunes finally changed for the better.
With 5:39 left in the third, Olivet senior quarterback Rob Funk scord on a 1-yard run to make it 21-6. And with 1:19 remaining in the period, Funk passed to Masters along the left sideline, and after a leaping grab by Masters, he ran in the rest of the way for a 45-yard score that was followed by a 2-yard conversion run by Funk.
“At halftime, we talked to our defense about going more into a zone rather than trying to shoot the gaps and that helped us, plus our offense started to get going,” Priddy said. “And after getting it to 21-14, we were right back in the game.”
Indeed. And after the Olivet defense made several stands to keep the Falcons in check, the Eagles found themselves with the ball on their own 23 early in the fourth quarter and were set to drive toward a tying TD.
However, throwing against the wind, a Funk pass was intercepted by the Falcons’ Max Boorsma with 9:37 remaining. And less than 30 seconds later, Corey scored on a 3-yard run to make it 28-14. A 46-yard TD pass from Russell to Drake Wooten with 5:36 to play closed the game’s scoring.
“Rob made the right read on that play — their guy (Boorsma) just made a great play and got that pick,” Priddy said.
Funk said the interception obviously hurt the Eagles’ chances of rallying back, but said he was nevertheless proud of the way he and his Olivet teammates fought hard all game and all season long.
“We came out after halftime looking at it as a 0-0 game, and we played better and came back,” Funk said. “It definitely hurts to lose today, but it was also definitely a great season for us. We did a lot of things that this team has never done before, we won a lot of games, and we gave it our best.”
Overall, West Catholic had 422 yards of offense compared to Olivet’s 181, with both teams passing for 115. Eagles senior Shane Loney, a 1,000-plus yards rusher, was held to just 28 Saturday, and senior Dylan Coolidge had 30. Corey had 112 yards rushing for the Falcons, and Lasavian Majewski 107.