Sailors win 12 straight, capture second title in three years
Cameron Mellor (@CamMellor)
February 13, 2015
After a rocky start to their 2014 campaign, the South Christian High School football team righted their ship last fall. Pun intended, as the Sailors rattled off 12 straight victories en route to the 2014 Michigan Class 4 State Championship.
Starting off their season on a sour note seems to be becoming a thing of normalcy for South Christian. In the last three seasons, they have dropped one or more of their first two games. However, those losses may be catalysts to a successful season as each of the past three years, the Sailors have made it to the State Championship game at Ford Field in Detroit.
However, unlike the previous two seasons in which they lost only one of their first two games, the Sailors dropped their opening two contests, the first, a hard fought game to Grand Rapids Christian, 28-14. The second game, they were dealt an even bigger blow in a disappointing game 47-21 loss to Caledonia, in which wide receiver Eric VanVoorst went down with a broken ankle.
VanVoorst broke his ankle on a simple screen pass in the second game of his senior season. During his junior campaign, he and fellow senior, quarterback Jon Wassink created a remarkable duo, as Wassink connected on nearly 40 percent of his passes to VanVoorst.
VanVoorst caught 84 balls for 1,094 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior.
The loss of VanVoorst and the consecutive losses in their first two games seemed to spark the Sailors in 2014 however.
After an exciting overtime victory over Unity Christian, 33-30, South Christian put on several impressive displays in wins against Forest Hills Eastern (34-14), Catholic Central (41-14), Ottawa Hills (51-0) and Hastings (48-24).
The Sailors fell behind early against Thornapple Kellogg after their opening kickoff was returned for a touchdown. After that, the two teams played an evenly matched back-and-forth game that wasn’t decided until running back Geff Plasman put the icing on the cake with a 42-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. South Christian won the game against the Trojans by a score of 35-23.
In one of their final two regular season games, the Sailors needed some second half help after nearly giving up a 27-point first half lead against Wayland. Despite getting within nine points, 27-18, South Christian would defeat the Wildcats 54-30. In the regular season finale’, South Christian cruised past Allendale, 35-0 and would hope to ride their momentum into the playoffs.
To start postseason play, the Sailors would again take on Unity Christian. This time, however, no extra period would be needed as Wassink and the Sailors would score 20 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarter to put the game away, 58-34.
Wassink ran for a season- and career-high 298 rushing yards against the Crusaders while scoring five touchdowns on the ground and throwing two more.
He would continue his impressive running game in South Christian’s second round playoff game against Whitehall. Wassink ran for 176 yards and two touchdowns as the Sailors built a 35-0 lead before ultimately defeating the Vikings, 49-14.
In the state semifinals matchup against Edwardsburg, the Sailors were given a boost as VanVoorst would return from his broken ankle.
In most cases, a player returning from such a horrific incident may shy away from the ball or the head coach may shy away from giving him the ball. Not in the Sailors case however as the first play from scrimmage for South Christian was a pass to VanVoorst who caught it and gained seven yards.
Wassink would then lead the Sailors to another 35-point first half, however, unlike their easy victory a week prior, he would need to put more points than that to hold on to the victory against the Eddies.
After Edwardsburg closed the gap to 42-34, Wassink calmly led his team down field, connecting on passes to Plasman and VanVoorst before rushing the ball two times and the eventual game-winning score. That’s not to say there wasn’t some suspense in the waning moments of this game however.
Eddies running back Dante Razzano scored on a 60-yard rush to cut the deficit to 50-42 before the ensuing kickoff would be fumbled and recovered by Edwardsburg. Dustin Vires would score on a 38-yard rush just two plays later to further cut the South Christian lead to 50-48.
That is as close as Edwardsburg would get however, as the Sailor defense stopped the two-point conversion attempt and Wassink would run the clock out for South Christian on their next possession. In his return, VanVoorst recorded six receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
The State Championship game would prove to be nearly as exciting for the Sailors as they were pitted against the Sexton Big Reds. The two evenly matched teams traded blows in the first half and went to halftime with South Christian leading, 20-14.
Wassink would break the game open with a 68-yard touchdown run on the opening play of the third quarter to give his team a 28-14 lead, following a successful two-point conversion.
The Big Reds however would miss their extra point on Mack’s touchdown pass, giving the Sailors a 28-27 lead and the ball with 10:43 left in the game.
Wassink would chew up over five minutes on their ensuing possession before punting the ball himself and pinning the Big Reds back on their own 26 yard line. Mack would fumble just four plays later and Wassink would take another 1:30 off the clock before punting again.
This time, however, Wassink’s punt would pin Sexton at their own seven yard line with 3:48 left.
Despite driving the ball nearly to midfield over the next nine plays, time would run out on Sexton’s chances and their season, giving South Christian and their class of 21 seniors the 2014 Michigan Class 4 State Championship, 28-27.
Wassink would finally hold on to his first State Championship trophy after coming close a year prior and being injured during the Sailors title game in 2012. The Western Michigan signee finished his career with 8,072 yards and 76 touchdowns through the air while rushing for 3,241 yards and another 50 scores on the ground.
Head Coach Mark Tamminga will have to replace Wassink along with 20 other seniors on a team that has reached the state championship game in three consecutive years. But that’s next fall.
For now, the Sailors are 2014 Michigan Class 4 State Champs.
Offensive stat leaders
Rushing: Jon Wassink (1347 yards)
Passing: Jon Wassink (2489 yards)
Receiving: Ryan Veenstra (701 yards)
All-Purpose: Geff Plasman (1984 yards)
Touchdowns: Geff Plasman (25)
Rush attempts: Geff Plasman (216 carries)
Receptions: Ryan Veenstra (48 catches)
Defensive stat leaders
Total tackles: Sam Heyboer (87)
Sacks: Sam Heyboer (11)
Tackles for loss: Sam Heyboer (22.5)
Interceptions: Jon Wassink (6)
Total scoring: 551 points
Opponent scoring: 333
Total offense: 5559 yards
Total rushing yards: 2962 yards
Total passing yards: 2597 yards
Opponent offense: 4132 yards
Opponent rushing yards: 2690 yards
Opponent passing yards: 1442 yards
Third down conversions: 44.1% (56/127)
Opponent third down conversions: 31.3% (50/160)
Turnover differential: +7 (13 interceptions, 18 fumbles)