Photo courtesy of Murry Sports Photography. Recap brought to you in part by Betten Imports
To see pictures of the game click here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/45681226@N02/albums/72157719827493401
The Pioneers of East Grand Rapids played host to their neighbors, the Eagles of Grand Rapids Christian, on Friday night. Separated by just 2.8 miles, these two student bodies bump into one another nearly every day. Some of the Students are actually neighbors. That said, the rivalry between the schools athletically, is always the format for a great competition. I equate it to a U of M vs MSU game. Throw out the records and “who should win” and just watch the competition unfold.
This game would prove to be another classic matchup. Most would have guessed the Pioneers would win this game relatively easily. After all, it is another home game, they just beat South Christian on the road, and the Eagles have dropped their first two games. One of those against South Christian 7-27. But, that’s why they play the games.
East won the coin flip and decided to take the ball to start the 2nd half. This would put Coach Casey Longo’s defense on the field first. The Eagles would start on their own 20 yard line and just 3 plays later would turn it over to East. The Pioneers recovered the slippery ball on the 22 yard line and were poised to put up an early score. The first play from scrimmage JR QB David Bernecker would score on a QB Keeper up the middle. But wait, fabric on the field. The first of many penalties that would slow the roll of the offense. Eventually the Pioneers would have to settle for a 43 yard field goal from JR K Nick Collins and would take the early lead 3-0.
Christian would again start their drive on the 20 following another touchback on the Collins kickoff. This drive would result in a 28 yard touchdown courtesy of the Eagles SR RB Aviere Thomas. Soph K Jordan Rodgers added the PAT and Christian was up 7-3. The quarter would end with the Pioneers driving the field eventually scoring just 31 seconds into the second frame on a 2 yard run by SR RB Nathias Grady. The snap on the PAT would fall just short of JR QB Preston Bergstrom (holder on FG’s and PAT’s) but the back up quarterback alertly picked the ball up and was able to run it in for a 2-piont conversion. East then had retaken the lead 11-7.
Defensive pressure from both squads would force fumbles throughout the quarter, but as the halftime approached, the Eagles were able to narrow the margin to just 1 point on a 38 yard FG from Rodgers. East 11 GR Christian 10 at the half.
The Eagles and Pioneers would again rely heavily on their defense in the 2nd half. Both teams could move the ball down the field, but when the end zone got close, the defense forced turnovers. In all there were 5 fumbles that were recovered by the opponents. Penalties also played a key in the outcome. Both teams will be working on cleaning up that aspect of the game in the upcoming practices. The final quarter would continue to wind down with the Pioneers enjoying a one point lead. But the Eagles were not done. With just 2:05 remaining Christian would again drive the field, this time not turning the ball over, but rather kicking a 26 yard go ahead field goal. Christian 13 East 11.
East would have one last chance to move the ball. The field goal unit waited patiently as the offense moved the chains, but eventually the Eagles defense would force a long fourth down. Although Collins had shown his 43 yard kick earlier would have been good from at least 50, the line of scrimmage was well behind the mid-field stripe. Forced to try to convert the 4th down play, East would be tackled for a loss and the Eagles would take over, run out the clock, and celebrate their first win of the 2021 campaign. 13-11.
With the loss the Pioneers fall to 0-1 in the OK White and 1-2 overall. Next week they are on the road at Byron Center. The Bulldogs are 3-0 on the season, but have not played a OK White conference game.
GR Christian is now tied atop the OK White at 1-0 and 1-2 overall. They are schedule to host the Yellow Jackets of Greenville next week. The Jackets did not play on Friday night, they are 0-2 on the season.