MARQUETTE - Menominee kept the high-octane offense of Grand Rapids West Catholic contained for 3 1/2 quarters.
But the Falcons finally escaped their cage just in time to score a last-minute touchdown and earn a 20-17 victory at the Superior Dome in Marquette on Saturday afternoon.
West Catholic ended Menominee's season for the third straight year to earn a berth in the MHSAA Division 5 state championship game next weekend. GRWC (10-3) faces Portland (12-1) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Ford Field in Detroit.
The Maroons (11-2) fell in the Division 5 semifinals for the second time since winning a D5 state title in 2007.
"We left our defense on the field for too long today," said first-year Menominee coach Joe Noha, who had been an assistant for longtime Maroons mentor Ken Hofer until he stepped down at the end of his 43rd season a year ago.
"Eventually their offense was able to get some big plays against us."
Detroit Cass Tech 34, Lake Orion 27
Detroit Catholic Central 35, Rockford 6
Birmingham Brother Rice 31, Wyandotte Roosevelt 3
Muskegon 34, Caledonia 21
Grand Rapids Christian 52, DeWitt 28
Orchard Lk. St. Mary 28, Battle Creek Harper Creek 7
Detroit Country Day 38, Saginaw Swan Valley 0
Grand Rapids South Christian 21, Comstock Park 7
Grand Rapids West Catholic 20, Menominee 17
Portland 28, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 23
Constantine 36, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 14
Ithaca 31, Shelby 14
Detroit Loyola 54, Flint Beecher 6
Ishpeming 8, Pewamo-Westphalia 7
Beal City 25, St. Ignace LaSalle 7
Harbor Beach 32, Muskegon Catholic Central 27
Ill-timed penalties and a pair of missed field goals kept the Falcons off the scoreboard for the first 15 minutes and trailing until the end of the third quarter.
Even after West Catholic tied it 14-14 going into the fourth quarter on a 5-yard TD pass, Menominee retook the lead.
The Maroons put together a 12-play, five-minute drive that was capped off by junior Evan Pohlmann's 27-yard field goal to give Menominee a 17-14 lead with 4:47 to go.
The Grand Rapids team then put together its most complete drive of the day, gaining 73 yards in 12 plays in under four minutes. It included a pair of third-down conversions, and most critically, a successful 4th-and-8 play out of punt formation when punter and sometimes-QB Andy Corey completed a 15-yard pass.
Regular QB Travis Russell put his team ahead with 58 seconds to go on a 14-yard scoring strike to the far corner of the end zone to David Kuzma, who was blanketed by Menominee cornerback Bryan Hines.
"We finally got them back on their heels," GRWC coach Dan Rohn said about the last drive and the effect of the hurry-up offense he employed all game.
The Maroons' last-gasp drive was fraught with problems, however, as Devon Harris' first two passes were nearly intercepted, while a majority of the final minute wound down on a missed opporunity to call timeout and a botched spike.
The game's final play was a 30-yard completion, but left Menominee 15 yards from a winning score.
Though West Catholic ran 29 more plays, the Falcons also had just 29 more yards, 389-360. Not many of those yards came on the ground, as passes ate up huge chunks of yards in the perfect indoor conditions.
The Falcons completed 25 of 42 passes for 298 yards, while Menominee was 12 of 25 for 321, including plays of 76 and 91 yards. Each team was intercepted once.