Unity Christian was back in the district finals for the fourth time in five seasons. This year, their first in Division 5, they took on the Oakridge Eagles. After falling behind 35-8, the Crusaders put together a remarkable comeback to earn a 40-37 victory and advance to the regionals.
Koleman Wall started the scoring for Oakridge with a 59 yard pass to Blake Masterman to give them a 7-0 lead. Unity would respond on their ensuing drive when they marched the length of the field, and Max Buikema capped it off with a one-yard run. The successful two-point try gave Unity an 8-7 lead after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Oakridge struck for four touchdowns. Leroy Quinn scored the first touchdown of the quarter for Oakridge on a two-yard run just forty one seconds in. Jalen Hughes would extend the Oakridge lead with a fifteen yard run on their next drive to give them a 21-8 edge. In the next minute, Oakridge got the ball back and Quinn broke off a 39 yard run to extend the lead to 20 points. With just under two minutes left in the half, Hughes had another big play touchdown, this time from 80 yards, to give Oakridge a 35-8 halftime lead.
The Crusaders were resilient in this one, never giving up despite a four touchdown deficit. Isaac TeSlaa got the scoring started in the second half when he broke off a 55 yard touchdown run. The two-point try cut the lead to 35-16. Later in the quarter, Buikema found the end zone from four yards out to trim the lead to 35-24 entering the final frame.
Within the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, Unity pulled within one possession. TeSlaa’s one yard touchdown run, and the successful two-point try by Malekhi Obande pulled Unity within three points. Oakridge would extend their lead by two points midway through the fourth when they recorded a safety. Trailing 37-32, Unity needed to act fast. With 3:12 left to play, TeSlaa scored his third touchdown of the night, this time a 19 yard run. The successful two-point try by Obande put the Crusaders ahead 40-37.
Unity Christian’s defense held over the last three mintues, and they emerged winners over Oakridge. This was their first district title since 2016 when they reached the semifinals. Next week, they will hit the road for their regional finals matchup. Standing in their way to the semifinals is Kalamazoo Hackett. The Fighting Irish reached the regional finals by defeating Hopkins 46-35.