Fugate rushes for 306 yards, scores five touchdowns to lead GR Catholic Central to second straight D-4 title, 42-31 over Edwardsburg
Detroit – After winning the Division 4 State Championship a season ago, 10-7 over Detroit Country Day, Grand Rapids Catholic Central running back Nolan Fugate admitted that he and the rest of the Cougars’ offense felt they still had something to prove.
Throughout the 2017 season the Catholic Central offense rolled through opponents as the Cougars totaled 529 points on the year entering Friday night’s Division 4 State Championship Game against Edwardsburg.
Led by Fugate’s 306 rushing yards and five total touchdowns, the Cougars’ offense continued its dominance as Catholic Central would outlast Edwardsburg for a 42-31 win to claim its second straight state title and third in program history.
“I’d say that our offense overall had a chip on our shoulder that we knew we had to come out and score a lot of points to be able to give our team a chance to win,” Fugate said. “We took it really personal that we didn’t do much on offense last year, so we executed to the best of our ability and we were able to come out and grind out a good team win.”
With Catholic Central holding a comfortable 35-19 lead entering the fourth quarter, Edwardsburg began clawing its way back in the game as Kyle Shrider scored on a 74-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter to cut the Cougar lead to 35-25.
The Eddies would again cut into the Catholic Central lead with 8:19 remaining in the game when Nick Bradley scored on the first play of the next Edwardsburg drive, a 90-yard touchdown run that cut the deficit to just four, 35-31. Bradley’s touchdown run tied the MHSAA record for the longest touchdown run in finals history, originally set by Farmington Hills Harrison’s Nick Williams in 1994.
But Fugate would make a pair of big plays for the Cougars on the ensuing Catholic Central drive as the senior hauled in a 38-yard catch on 3rd down and 28 to keep the drive alive and later finished off the drive with a 32-yard touchdown run, extending the Catholic Central lead to 42-31 with less than four minutes left to play.
Catholic Central head coach Todd Kolster credited his team’s offensive line play on Friday night as well as the performance from his star running back.
“That’s how we’ve been all year,” he said. “We put our stock up front on offense and defense and we’ve done that every year since I’ve been around. Our guys really stood up to the occasion – Nolan, he’s just a special player.”
Fugate’s 306 rushing yards are the second most in MHSAA Finals history, just one yard shy of the record set by Jim Schragg of Constantine in 2004. Fugate’s five touchdowns are tied for the most in a finals game.
“It’s really special, it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “To be able to do this with my teammates and be able to execute and do this for the Catholic Central community, I’m just happy for all of our teammates and coaches and everyone that was a part of it.”
Coming out of halftime with a 21-13 lead after Erik Grabow’s touchdown run late in the first half, the Cougars added to their lead on their first possession of the second half as Catholic Central marched 77 yards in seven plays and Fugate notched his third touchdown of the game to extend the lead to 28-13.
After Edwardsburg responded with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Caden Coggins on the ensuing kickoff to cut the Catholic Central lead back down to nine, Fugate struck again for the Cougars, scoring on a 54-yard run to put the Cougars up 35-19 heading into the fourth.