DETROIT — During his postgame press conference, Lansing Catholic football coach Jim Ahern’s cell phone went off.
“That’s a priest, I should answer it because I could really use some prayers,” Ahern said.
Ahern and his Cougars could have used some divine intervention November 26 during the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 5 state championship game.
Lansing Catholic saw its incredible 2011 season come to an end with a 56-26 loss at the hands of Powers Catholic, a team it had beaten in week two 37-17.
“Powers played extremely well and we played extremely poor, and the score indicated that,” said Ahern, whose team ended its year with a school-best 13-1 record. “I have no answers on why we played like that. I thought we were ready when we came in here, but it was our worst performance of the year. I’m disappointed, because I thought I let the kids down.”
That wasn’t the case. The Chargers just played better.
Behind a high-octane offense that racked up 568 total yards, Powers could do no wrong.
The Cougars’ normally-spectacular offense, led by all-state senior quarterback Cooper Rush and all-state senior wide receiver Matt Macksood, could not keep up.
“We played horrible defense,” Ahern said “They scored every time they had the ball. When you don’t have the ball, you can’t score. They played really well. Hats off to them.”
Rush, who threw for well over 3,000 yards on the year, ended his season by throwing for 291 yards and three touchdowns. Macksood caught one of those touchdown passes, while fellow senior wide receiver Connor Bartlett caught the other two.
“We didn’t play defense to get the ball back,” Ahren said. “We moved the ball when we had it, we just didn’t stop them.”
Frustrations popped up all over the field for the Cougars, most notably in Macksood, who pleaded with the referee right before halftime on a ball he though he caught, but that was ruled out of bounds.
“I just realized that this was my last game,” Macksood said. “I always play with a lot of emotion, whether it’s the first game of the season or the state championship. I just play with all my heart.”
And that’s what the Cougars did all year in a miraculous season that saw them score 537 total points and give up 209 heading into the school’s first championship game.
“We wouldn’t be here without them [Rush, Macksood and Bartlett],” Ahern said. “They have had outstanding careers. It is always sad to end it when we didn’t play well. The have set the bar high at Lansing Catholic.”
Rush, who will continue his playing career at Central Michigan University next year, was asked to reflect on what he and his talented senior class had done. He acknowledged that was hard to do right after a loss, but he knew what to say.
“We had a special team this year, a special group of guys,” he said.