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Cedar Springs loses heartbreaker to Catholic Central

By Judy Reed

Red Hawk senior quarterback Aiden Brunin runs with the ball. He had 98 yards rushing against Catholic Central. Photo by Brandon Kramer Photography.

The win (and possible share of the conference title) was within their grasp. It was so close that the Red Hawks and their fans could taste it. With 38 seconds left on the game clock, Ryan Miller scored the touchdown that brought them within one point of the Catholic Central Cougars. Would they get the 2-point conversion to seal the win?

In what was being called a showdown for the title in the OK Gold conference, Cedar Springs hosted Catholic Central at Red Hawk Stadium last Friday, October 15. Both teams were 5-0 in conference. The Cougars have not lost a conference game since 2016, and were state champions in Division 5 in 2020, and in Division 4 in 2019, 2017, and 2016.

But no team since 2018 has scored as many points against Catholic Central as Cedar Springs did Friday night.

“I thought our offensive line played one of the best games I’ve ever witnessed,” said Cedar Springs Coach Gus Kapolka. “They were dominant from beginning to end. Our special teams were solid as well, with a kick return for a TD, and two blocked PAT’s (point after touchdown kicks).”

Red Hawk junior Antwuan Nicholls scored on an 80-yard kick off return against Catholic Central. Photo by Brandon Kramer Photography.

Cedar Springs hit the scoreboard first, when with 6:52 left in the first, Ryan Mitchell ran 10 yards to the left to score. The 2-point conversion was no good.

Catholic Central then scored with 2:40 left in the first, when quarterback John Passinault ran right for a four-yard touchdown. The point after kick by John Meyer was good.

With 2:27 left in the first, Catholic Central then kicked off to Cedar Springs. Antwuan Nicholls got the ball on the Cedar Springs 20-yard line and ran it 80 yards down field to score the next touchdown. Alex Ream’s run for two more points was good.

With 1:23 left in the first, CC scored again, when Passinault threw to Nolan Zeigler for a 14-yard touchdown. The Red Hawks didn’t allow Meyer to attempt the point after kick.

At the end of the first quarter, it was CS 14, CC 15.

Cedar Springs scored twice more in the second quarter, on a 10-yard run by QB Aiden Brunin and a 1-yard run by Alex Ream. Brunin ran in the 2 points after Ream’s TD.

Catholic Central scored again, when Passinault threw to Devin Fridley-bell for a 25-yard touchdown. The Red Hawks blocked Meyers point after kick.

The score at half was CS 28, CC 23.

Catholic Central held the Red Hawks at bay in the third and came back with three touchdowns. Passinault scored on both a one-yard run and a 67-yard run and threw a pass to Fridley-bell for a 7-yard touchdown. They scored 2-point conversions after two of the touchdowns.

Catholic Central runs with the ball. Photo by Brandon Kramer Photography.

After three quarters, it was CS 28, CC 41.

In the fourth quarter, Cedar Springs not only had to play catch up, they had to hold back Catholic Central. Cedar Springs drove down the field and scored on a two-yard run by Brunin with 8:26 left on the clock. Brunin’s pass to Josh Kriekaard for extra points was no good. It was now CS 34, CC 41.

Catholic Central started their next drive on their 20-yard line. They made it to the Cedar Springs 33-yard line, and on 4th down and 3, Passinault tried to run up the middle but was stopped by Antwuan Nicholls for no gain. Cedar Springs took over on their 33-yard line.

Cedar Springs drove down the field and made it the Catholic Central 3-yard line. Ryan Mitchell ran left for the 3-yard touchdown. It was now CS 40, CC 41, with 38 seconds on the clock. Cedar Springs called their third time out. They needed a two-point conversion to win the game, and a possible share of the conference title.

Brunin rolled out with the ball but couldn’t make it in to the endzone.

Cedar Springs kicked off, and tried an onside kick, but it was picked up at the 50 by Catholic Central. They made one play to lose two yards, and the game was over. Final score CS 40, Catholic Central 41.

“I’m proud of the way our guys battled all the way down to the final play on Friday night,” said Kapolka.   “We are obviously disappointed with our effort, but I am pleased with how we competed. The game came down to us making 2-3 critical plays at crucial times, and we just couldn’t make them.”

Cedar Springs racked up 327 yards on the ground. They were led by Aiden Brunin with 98 and 2 TDs, Ryan Mitchell with 72 and 2 TDs, Carter Falan with 57, Antwuan Nicholls with 52, Alex Ream with 39 and one TD, and Kyle Hoort with 9. Nicholls also had an 80-yard TD run on a kickoff return.

The Cedar Springs Red Hawk senior football players made their walk across the football field Friday night. From L to R: Jacob Rocafort (32); Carter Bayink (2); Landon Demorest (31); Jordan Victorson (67); Kyle Hoort (15); Alex Ream (20); Brennen Porter (58); Tate Ringelberg (50); Aiden Brunin (28); Cam Heiss (75); Alex Kramer (51); Logan Johnson (52); Blake Scheer (81). Photo by Brandon Kramer Photography.

Catholic Central had 170 yards rushing between three players: John Passinault had 104, Jack Rellinger had 53, and Ronin Russell Dixon had 13.

Passinault also threw for 256 yards, including three touchdowns.

Cedar Springs is now tied for second place in the OK Gold with South Christian High School. They will battle them this week at East Kentwood High School.

We asked Coach Kapolka what challenges that game will bring to the Red Hawks.

“South Christian will present similar problems to Grand Rapids Catholic Central. They are big and athletic, and they will try to spread us out and throw the ball,” he explained. “We have to fix some things defensively this week to be ready for their dynamic attack.” Make the trip Friday to East Kentwood High School to cheer on your Red Hawks! Game time is 7 p.m.

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