In Play with Tom Markowski

Poljan scores two touchdowns, Lansing Catholic Central holds off Portland 21-14 in Division 5

Football   | Tom Markowski

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Portland – If Lansing Catholic Central was going to lose to Portland on Friday, veteran coach Jim Ahern was going to lose by going with his best.

Tony Poljan, a Mr. Football candidate who’s committed to Minnesota, wasn’t about to let that happen.

Poljan threw four interceptions in C.C.’s 28-6 loss to Portland seven weeks ago but in a Division 5 district final it was Poljan who came through in the clutch.

Poljan had 24 carries for 94 yards and two touchdowns including what proved to be the game-winner as C.C. held on to defeat Portland 21-14 before a standing-room-only crowd at Portland.

C.C. (10-1), a state finalist last season, will play at Freeland (11-0) in a region final next Friday.

“I only have him for a couple of more games,” Ahern said. “I figured I had to go (with him). He’s an exceptional player. Woods Hayes said the ball ain’t that heavy.”

It did seem, especially in the second half, that Ahern called Poljan’s number on every play.

His 15-yard touchdown run on the Cougars’ first series of the second half gave C.C. a 21-7 lead.

Poljan had 15 carries in the second half for 62 yards. For the game his was 12-of-17 passing for 165 yards.

Even when he made a mistake, he picked himself up and led what proved to be the game-clinching drive.

Portland defensive end Tyler Zimmerman recovered a Poljan fumble on the C.C. 13 with 9:50 remaining. Four times running back Logan Lefke carried the ball and on fourth-and-2 from the 5-yard line he was stopped for no game.

C.C. took over and started to milk the clock. Poljan carried twice totaling 11 yards and then on third-and-6 he completed a 10-yard pass to Robert Ruiter. On another third-and-6 Poljan used a hard count to draw Portland offside then ran four yards for a first down.

Though C.C. was forced to punt, Portland took over on its seven with 40 seconds left and no time outs. The Raiders gained one first down got no further.

“Our offensive line and defensive lines did a great job,” Poljan said. “Robert Lundberg, Peter Galer and Brandon Hinds all played well.

“After that fumble, it was just a tremendous effort by the defense. I knew I could count on them.”

What it often overlooked it Poljan, a 6-7, 225-pound senior, also starts at either defensive end or safety, whichever position suits Ahern best, and is an important part of the defense.

“We just made too many mistakes,” Portland coach John Novara said. “Every time we’d get something going we’d get a penalty or something. We had a touchdown called back, we just made too many mistakes.

“I’ve seen Tony play for four years now and I’ve had enough of him. What people underestimate is his defensive play. We have to make changes to try to avoid his area.”

Each team scored on their first drive of the game and each committed two turnovers, and C.C. led 13-7 at halftime.

Poljan’s 5-yard touchdown run gave the Cougars a 7-0 lead. Tony Palmer opened the game with a 48-yard kickoff return that gave C.C. excellent field position.

Portland (10-1) answered with a 10-play, 68-yard drive to tie the game at 7-7. Quarterback Cole McGregor capped the drive with an 8-yard run.

Dylan Goodman recovered a fumble for Portland at C.C.’s 45-yard line but Mitchell McGinnis ended that drive with an interception on the Cougars’ 12.

Poljan’s 48-yard pass to Brandon Hinds on a third-and-5 gave C.C. a first down at the Portland 22. Three plays later C.C. regained the lead on Palmer’s 5-yard touchdown run. Mark Brooks blocked the extra point and C.C. led 13-7 with 5:53 left.

C.C. had an opportunity to increase its lead when it recovered a fumbled punt on the Portland 19 with 17 seconds left. But two plays later McGregor intercepted to effectively end the half.