Down 24, Grand Rapids Christian rallies to beat Spring Lake by 24

GRAND RAPIDS – Grand Rapids Christian won’t miss a few touchdowns for Unity Christian when the two teams compete in the district finals next week.

On the other hand, the Eagles showed once again on Friday night that they play their best football when they are about to blow out.

Christian rallied past Spring Lake 48-24 at home in a Division 4 opening round playoff game. The win came after the Eagles fell 24-0 in the second quarter. Christian responded by scoring 48 unanswered points to advance to the second round.

The Eagles started the season 7-3 0-2, but have since won seven of the next eight games. In addition, Christian overcame 21-0 deficits twice to win games in the regular season.

“Maybe next week we’ll just flip the ball over and give Unity the first two possession of the ball so they can score and we can do our best,” joked Kirk Sundberg, who coaches the Eagles with Rueben Riley. “It’s not a good idea, of course, because Unity is an amazing football team.

“But to be so deep down tonight and come back like this is amazing. I think you have to give Spring Lake a lot of credit. They came out and punched us in the mouth early. They had a great schedule and did some really good things. But our children fought and they don’t give up. Our kids fight and don’t give up, and that’s really cool to see. “

The Eagles will visit Unity Christian for the second round next week. The Crusaders improved to 10-0 after defeating Forest Hills Eastern 67-0. It is the second game between the Eagles and Crusaders this season. Unity beat Christian 58:21 in Week 2.

It seemed late in the first half that Spring Lake was going to move forward. But Christian got on the scoreboard and gained some momentum at halftime after taking his two-minute offense and hitting Ace Thomas on a 7-yard touchdown pass by second quarterback Alek Wickstrom to make it 24-7. The Eagles then came out and dominated the second half.

Ja’Marte Hogan, who broke 1,000 yards last week of the season, helped with the comeback. Hogan ended up rushing 204 yards for 20 carries and two touchdowns.

Wickstrom was 13 of 19 for 129 yards and two scores. Thomas stormed for 82 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown run. He also had six receptions for 58 yards and two scores.

The Eagles’ defense also came out big. Amir Nixon intercepted two passes and returned a 56 yards for a touchdown. Tyree Gamble also had an interception while Alec Koval posted 13.5 tackles, including 12 solos and 5.5 for loss.

“Making the two-minute drive before halftime was huge,” said Sundberg. “Alek Wickstrom deserves a lot of credit. Whether he makes a throw or not, he manages the situation and puts the ball in the hands of the right guys. You think of a high school kid who lost 24-0 to your home fans in a playoff game. All the emotions and suddenly there is a glimmer of hope. “

The Lakers, 6-4, rolled after Christian Folkert scored a goal on two 1-yard runs. The second came early in the second quarter after Ty French spotted an Eagles fumble on the Christian 6 yard line and brought him back to 1.

Spring Lake quarterback Jackson Core later threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Paggeot in the second, and Carter Ball kicked a 25-yard field goal to go 24-0 with 2:44 in the first half .

“I thought we put in a really good performance in the first half,” said Spring Lake coach Dan Start. “I thought we played well and tackled well. We have a couple of sales that were big.

“But Christian played great football. They got it rolling and they have some great athletes. In the second half, we just ran out of gas. But that’s life. These children fought and I am proud of them for that. “

Hogan dislocated a finger in the course of the game. But that couldn’t stop him either.

“The result before half was really important,” said Hogan. “The coaches were kind of angry with us because we were slowly coming out. We always talk about getting out of there quick and throwing the first punch. But getting that score and going back to the locker room halfway was great for us. We had momentum and got the ball back (to start the second half). “

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