Detroit — Jon Wassink led a late touchdown drive in the opening half, then another to start the second to help Grand Rapids South Christian upset previously unbeaten Lansing Sexton 28-27 for the Division 4 championship Friday night at Ford Field.
Most teams would just run out the clock in the final seconds of a half after an opponent scored, but not South Christian (12-2).
After Sexton quarterback Malik Mack scored on a 2-yard run to pull even at 14 with 42 seconds left in the half, Wassink went to work.
With South Christian at its own 24, Wassink found Evan Beukema for 40 yards, then Jake Wiergenga for 16 to Sexton's 20, and two plays later connected with Eric VanVoorst for a 20-yard TD to open a 20-14 lead with seven seconds left.
"We're just really confident with our offense and how we work together so we thought we had enough time to go down and score and that's what we did," said Wassink, a Western Michigan commit. "It was big to get that lead going into halftime."
Wassink continued his impressive play on the first play from scrimmage to start the second half, breaking loose for a 68-yard TD to open a 28-14 cushion. South Christian led the rest of the way to complete its mission of bringing home the state championship trophy after losing in the title game last year to Marine City.
"That was big since we were coming out of halftime and we wanted to get the momentum in our favor and that really shifted it right away for us so that was a big play," said Wassink (14-of-21 for 179 yards and three TDs, 122 yards rushing, TD) of his long run to start the second half.
South Christian's linebacker Sam Heyboer sacked Malik Mack, forcing a fumble with less than four minutes left and South Christian holding a 28-27 lead. Defensive end Nick Bosch recovered at Sexton's 27. Heyboer had another sack on Sexton's final desperation drive which stalled near midfield as time expired.
"He's just an animal, so strong and tough to block," Wassink said of Heyboer. "He just creates havoc for the offense and he's a big-time player."
Wassink was nothing short of special in the opening half, connecting on 10-of-14 passes for 146 yards and three TDs, also finding Ryan Veenstra for a 9-yard TD to pull South Christian even at 7 in the opening quarter, then finding Heyboer for a 41-yard scoring toss for a 14-7 lead.
Wassink's second TD pass came after he intercepted a halfback pass at the South Christian 42.
Sexton's defense toughened up after Wassink's long TD run, giving Mack a chance for a comeback.
And Mack delivered. He was 4-for-4 for 71 yards and a 22-yard TD pass to sophomore tight end Kahari Foy-Walton in the first half, then did more damage to bring Sexton back from a 28-14 deficit to pull to 28-27 with 10:43 left.
Mack found Rayshawn Wilborn for 20 yards on third-and-20 at the South Christian 41 to set up Gavin Hoskins' 17-yard TD run with 1:05 left in the third to pull Sexton to 28-21.
Mack scrambled for a 26-yard gain to South Christian's 29 on the next series, then found Foy-Walton for a 29-yard TD, but the PAT was no good … ultimately being the difference, along with Heyboer's strong play.
"We knew they scored a lot of points in the fourth quarter in previous games so we just had in our heads that we weren't going to give up, just keep playing hard every play," said Heyboer, who had five tackles, including the two sacks and forced fumble. "I was supposed to run a different play, but it seemed to work on the blitz and he fumbled. This is awesome, by one point, too, so it makes it even better."
Mack finished 17-for-22 for 224 yards and two TDs. Sexton had six sacks defensively, including two each by Mack and Foy-Walton.