Grand Rapids West Catholic beats Lansing Catholic 24-20 to claim Division 5 state title

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DETROIT — Travis Russell and his Grand Rapids West Catholic teammates faced their first fourth-quarter deficit of the season Saturday, but Russell had been there before.

His 3-yard touchdown run with 1:07 to play lifted the Falcons to a 24-20 win over Lansing Catholic and a second straight Division 5 state title.

West Catholic (14-0) surrendered the lead midway through the final period but capped a long drive with Russell's scoring run to claim the school's third football crown and run their winning streak to 23 games.

"All I was thinking was what we could do for each other to just get it done," said Russell, who led the Falcons to three straight finals appearances. "You've got to have a little bit of moxie and confidence."

Brett Wildman's interception in the final minute sealed the victory.

The Falcons burned more than six minutes during the decisive drive. They watched Lansing score on a pair of 96-yard drives in the second half.

"We made sure when we got the ball back to just keep chipping away," coach Dave Rohn said.

Russell rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 203 and another score to outduel Lansing's Tony Poljan.

Poljan finished with 269 yards and two touchdowns on a 24-for-34 day and gave the Cougars (13-1) their first lead when he hit Tony Palmer with a 22-yard strike midway through the fourth quarter. He also had a 41-yard scoring pass to Zac Baker.

"He played well today," Lansing coach Jim Ahearn said of his junior quarterback. "When we needed yards, he got yards for us."

West Catholic led 17-0 before Poljan scored on a short run just before halftime to cut the deficit to 17-6.

Travis Hoving ended the game's first drive with a 31-yard field goal and Russell found Charlie O'Connor for an 87-yard touchdown the next time the Falcons had the ball. O'Connor finished with 111 yards on four catches.

Russell scored on an 8-yard run with less than two minutes to play in the second but Lansing answered with Poljan's 7-yard touchdown run just before the half.

The Cougars were making the school's first title-game appearance since the 1985 team captured the Class C championship. West Catholic has played in the title game in four of the past five seasons.

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