Pioneers RB John Shelton (22) shown here trying to fly, did everything he could to evade the Eagle defenders. However, 35 carries for 157 yds and 2 TD’s was not enough, as GR Christian would prevail. Photo courtesy of Mike Steers photography.
The East Grand Rapids Pioneers had a very warm welcome to the OK Gold football conference, as they had won their first sixteen league games. This week, the streak was snapped however, as the Grand Rapids Christian Eagles emerged victorious in a 24-21 game over the Pioneers that gave GRC a share of the league crown.
The Pioneers received to open this contest, but they were unable to capitalize on the opening drive. A defensive battle ensued in the first quarter, and the edge went to the Eagles as a result of punter Luke Elzinga. His ability to flip the field with lengthy punts was crucial in this game, pinning East into tough field position all night long.
After a pair of touchdowns put GRC ahead 14-0, but the Pioneers bounced back when John Shelton ran it in from six yards out. They would take this 14-7 deficit into the locker room. The third quarter saw only one touchdown, and it came as a result of a two-yard plunge by Shelton to even the score at 14.
Early in the fourth quarter, Christian took the lead on a 21-yard field goal. East Grand Rapids responded with an incredible drive that was ultimately stopped with an interception. The lead expanded to ten points when Thad Gamble went 99 yards to the end zone for a touchdown, a remarkable play in itself. The score was now 24-14 Eagles with just over two minutes to play.
In just over a minute, East Grand Rapids marched the field and scored on a 43-yard pass from Broussard to Josh Weiss. The touchdown cut the lead to three, but it was far from over. After an unsuccessful onside kick, the Eagles buckled up and played some defense. The Pioneers were 54 yards and 18 seconds left from evening the score when they finally got the ball back, but the Eagles defense held tough and preserved the shutout.
This was the first ever OK Gold loss for the Pioneers in three seasons since becoming a member. With the loss, East slides to 5-3 on the season and 4-1 in the OK Gold. They will try to officially wrap up a playoff berth next week when they take on Wyoming. For Christian High, they are now in the playoffs at 6-2 and sit tied with the Pioneers in conference play at 4-1. They host Wayland next week, If both East and Christian win, they will share the Gold crown for 2018.