GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When it comes to expectations for the West Catholic football program, it’s no secret where the bar is set.
The Falcons (10-1, 6-1 O-K Blue) have been searching for a path back to the highest level of MHSAA football since 2017 — the last time they won a state championship.
This season has felt like there is a real shot at that happening again. With Air Force running back commit Tim Kloska leading the offense and a defense that has forced three shutouts on the season while not allowing a team to score more than 24 points, the Falcons seem poised to make a run back to Ford Field.
If you asked first-year head coach Landon Grove, he’d say ‘not so fast.’ In order to be the best, you have to beat the best.
“We play Lansing Catholic this week and for us, it’s been a pretty easy sell to stay focused,” Grove said. “Because for us, until someone else proves otherwise, Lansing Catholic is the state champs. We have to take down the defending champion and they have to come to our place. Our kids have done a really good job of understanding that.
“Needless to say, they have our full attention.”
Grove went on to say jokingly that the kids on his team have done a better job than the community surrounding it by staying locked into this week instead of looking ahead to that potential state championship game.
It’s hard to blame the community. The West Catholic faithful saw runs of five consecutive years with a state title appearance — winning four of them — from 2012 to 2017.
That’s part of what has made this experience so special for Grove in his first go around: The community supports his team unlike anywhere else he’s coached at.
“If you come to a game here it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Grove said. “The support we get, the tailgate we get, the student section we get, the place is packed every time. The fans are always engaged with all aspects of the program. I told our kids this is the last chance the 2022 team gets to play under the lights at Falcon Stadium, that’s a special night in itself.”
The visitors from Lansing Catholic will be doing everything in their power to spoil the Falcons last showing at home. While their record looks middling at 6-5, the Cougars have won four in a row heading into this contest, including a 20-0 shutout of Ovid-Elsie in the district title game.
The Falcons know they will need more out of Kloska, who had 198 yards on 17 carries with five touchdowns in the 50-24 district title game over Constantine. With two good defenses colliding and offenses that are capable of lighting up the scoreboard, this has the makings of a well-played regional final in Division 6.
“We have to keep trusting our standards,” Grove said. “If we prepare harder than anyone else and play harder than anyone else, whether that’s true or not I don’t know but that’s what we believe. But our kids have bought into that and trusted that all season, we’ve been tested but kept believing and it’s really shown now.”
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11 at Falcon Stadium. Winner heads to the Division 6 State semifinal game on Saturday, Nov. 19.