By Greg Gielczyk
LANSING — Defending state champion Montague scored first and was feeling pretty good about themselves on Saturday afternoon in its Division 6 regional championship game.
But, they didn’t score again until Lansing Catholic Central had rattled off 31 unanswered points in a 31-13 victory over the Wildcats.
Colton Blankstrom’s interception and return set up Dylan Everett’s 3-yard touchdown run and Andrew Kooi’s extra point kick gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
It was all Cougars after that, though, as Montague had its two-game winning streak snapped and finished the season with a 8-4 record that includes a district title.
The Cougars won their third straight game, improved their record to 11-1 and will move on to the state semifinal game next Saturday.
“We ran into a really good team,” Montague coach Justin Dennett said. “It couldn’t have started out any better for us. We had that interception, a nice return and then were able to punch one in there.
“The second quarter things kind of got away from us.”
Lansing Catholic is battling to get back to the state championship game after losing in the semifinals a year ago. The Cougars won a state title in 2019.
Alex Watters scampered in from 25 yards out and Matt Watkins added the tying point with his kick to bring the Cougars even with the Wildcats, 7-7 early in the second quarter.
It was the first of four touchdowns Lansing Catholic scored in the second quarter. That put the Wildcats in a hole they could not escape.
Watters scored for the second time when he hauled in a short, 3-yard touchdown pass and Jonah Richards kicked the point after to give Lansing its first lead of the contest, 14-7.
Montague, the West Michigan Conference champion, finally broke its scoring drought in the fourth quarter when Wildcat quarterback Andrew Kooi hooked up with Izac Jarka on a 22-yard strike.
Lansing Catholic had 300 yards of total offense compared to 166 for the Wildcats. The Cougars passed for 213 yards while rushing for just 67. Montague ran for 104 and threw for 62.
“That (passing) is their bread and butter,” said Dennett. “They have a good quarterback and a couple really good receivers. We knew that was going to be a challenge and we would have to come up with some big plays.
“But, their playmakers kind of got the best of us today. We felt like we were in the right spot a lot, just couldn’t make the plays when we needed to.
“And it was really that second quarter. Other than that, our defense played pretty solid. We were able to get a couple interceptions. That quarterback doesn’t make mistakes. He only had one interception in the regular season.”
Each team had three turnovers, with the Wildcats losing two fumbles and throwing for one interception. Montague’s defense intercepted two passes.
Everett led the Wildcats’ rushing attack with 25 carries for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Leading the defense were Blankstrom with nine tackles, one interception and one tackle for loss, Jarka was in on eight stops, intercepted a pass and had one tackle for loss and Nichols had six tackles, one for loss.
Montague graduates eight seniors.
“It’s tough to see those guys go,” Dennett added. “That was a great group, and they accomplished a lot in their high school careers. I was really proud of them.”