KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — The third time was the charm for the South Christian football team Friday night.
After coming up short the past two years in the regional finals, the Sailors finally got over the hump with a thrilling 28-21 win over Whitehall in a Division 4 regional at East Kentwood High School.
Quarterback Jake DeHaan found Nate Brinks on a short touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining in regulation for the game-winning score.
“This is one of those teams where we just keep talking about these boxes that we are trying to check,” South Christian coach Danny Brown said. “We’ve been to the regional finals now for the third year in a row and we hadn’t been able to get over it. This was close, and the kids just stepped up and found a way. They kept believing.”
The Sailors (12-0) advance to next week’s state semifinal and will play Edwardsburg, which beat Hastings 24-14 in another regional final.
Ironically, Edwardsburg is the team that has knocked South Christian out of the postseason the past two years.
The Sailors won their first regional championship since 2014.
“Ever since my sophomore year we’ve been fighting for that regional title,” South Christian senior standout Cam Post said. “I’ve been looking forward to this because we’ve been beaten in regionals the past two years. To finally win a regional title as a senior is incredible and I think we can keep going.”
The game was knotted at 7-7 at halftime, but the Sailors took the lead on a touchdown pass from DeHaan to Brinks.
Whitehall, which was searching for its first regional title, scored 14 consecutive points on touchdown runs from Jackson Cook and Nate Bolley to grab a 21-14 win with under 10 minutes left.
The Sailors answered with a 16-yard touchdown catch by Seth Ritsema to tie it at 21-21.
“There wasn’t any worry on our team when we fell behind because we all believed in each other and we just knew that we had to find a way to come out with the victory,” DeHaan said. “Whitehall is a great team so we knew it was going to take all of our effort and we knew it was going to be a grind the whole game. It’s another check in the box, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do all season.”
The Sailors hadn’t faced much adversity this season, but responded with their perfect season on the line.
“They’re resilient and they love to compete,” Brown said. “And this just solidifies what we think about these guys. No matter how big the moment is, they find a way to do it and this is a special team.”
The Vikings (11-1) had scored a school-record 509 points, but South Christian held them to their lowest point total of the season.
“We knew they had a good offense, but we knew our defense was just as good and I think we proved that,” Post said. “We made good stops when we needed them and put pressure on them all the time.”