*Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the number of unanswered points from Chelsea, misspelled the last name of Unity Christian’s coach and mislabeled the team that previously held the scoring record. We regret the errors, which have been fixed.
DETROIT (WOOD) — Unity Christian couldn’t have felt more comfortable.
To start the fourth quarter, the Crusaders (13-1) overcame a 14-0 deficit early and built a 52-24 lead.
Then, Chelsea (14-0) pulled off the unimaginable.
Forcing Unity Christian’s first punt of the season, the Bulldogs forced three fumbles in the final quarter, scored 27 unanswered points to defeat the Crusaders and win a Division 4 State title.
It was an instant classic that will be talked about in the ranks of Michigan high school football for a long time.
Chelsea’s 33-yard game winning field goal was made by Hunter Shaw as the clock hit double zeros.
Unity Christian head coach Craig Tibbe was red eyed trying to find the positives in his team’s remarkable season that ended in an unthinkable fashion.
“That was a good football team and they do a lot of really good things, we made some uncharacteristic mistakes but that’s what good football teams make you do,” Tibbe said. “They force that to happen and we came up short.”
Following Unity Christian’s third touchdown of the game, the two-point conversion gave the Crusaders 775 points on the season, a MHSAA state record for points in a single season, passing Muskegon Orchard View, which had 774 in 1999.
This team truly had an offense that was unique and unstoppable. While it wasn’t enough to win, Tibbe wanted to mention how special and unique this group really was.
Tibbe had a hard time finding words for his team following the game.
“I don’t really have a good message for them right now,” Tibbe said. “I feel like I may have let these guys down in some way. It hurts and I can’t ease that, but they will look back at it and realize it was important to be here.”
With just 10 first downs in the first half needed, the Crusaders rushed for 171 yards and passed for another 98. Drew Chandler led the bunch on the ground with 98 yards, averaging 16.3 yards per attempt.
Cam Chandler, Unity’s quarterback and leader, fumbled on the game’s first offensive snap and Chelsea quickly took advantage with a score.
It didn’t take long for the Crusaders to respond, as they went down the field in six plays for 67 yards capped off by a 19-yard Ethan VanOtterloo score.
After getting a quick stop on defense, Cam got the ball back in his hands and fired a 25-yard touchdown strike to Jayden DeVries, and after a 2-point conversion Unity Christian led 16-14 in the snap of your fingers.
It took the Crusaders just 3:32 to regain the lead after falling behind by two scores to open the game.
Following two more scores on the Crusaders next two chances on offense, the lead ballooned to 32-14 in under 10 minutes of play.
Following Unity Christian’s first punt of the season in the fourth, Chelsea would score two unanswered touchdowns late to pull within seven, 52-45, and make the Crusaders sweat more than they would’ve liked to.
Chelsea didn’t stop there, they forced the Crusaders second turnover of the game on a fumble and followed with another touchdown from 15 yards out and tied the game at 52 all.
Then following a questionable catch from the Bulldogs that wasn’t reviewed, Shaw hit the game winner following a pair of Crusader timeouts to attempt to ice him.
The Crusaders totaled 491 yards for the game with 393 on the ground. Chelsea, meanwhile, ended up out-gaining the Crusaders by totaling 533 yards from scrimmage.
The Crusaders last won a state championship in 2018 when they were a part of Division 5.
This team truly dominated for the Crusaders, who won their games by an average of 45 points heading into Friday night.
While the loss hurts right now, this is the kind of season that can change the culture and look of a program that hopes to be dominant in the future.
“This is a great group and we had so much fun today until the end of the game,” Tibbe said. “What these guys have given to Unity football, I can’t say enough good things about them and how much fun they were to be around every day.”
With the win, the Bulldogs won their first state title since 1972.