GRAND LEDGE – Jack Kamminga will never forget Saturday’s Division 3 Boys Soccer Final at Grand Ledge High School.
The sophomore helped rally Hudsonville Unity Christian to its sixth title on a go-ahead goal with nine minutes, 23 seconds left to lift the Cougars to a 3-2 victory over powerhouse Detroit Country Day.
“Logan (Lutke) passed it to me, and I scored,’’ said Kamminga matter-of-factly. “It was the best feeling ever.
“Tied 2-2, we have to come back. We were down one in the second half, and it felt great to get up one on them. We had to high-press them when we were down a goal. We just couldn’t sit back and let them do what they wanted. We started pressing and making them feel uncomfortable. That produced two goals.’’
Country Day has a record 15 Finals titles and just one runner-up finish. Coach Steve Bossert figured early this season the championship could come down to his No. 2-ranked Yellowjackets (19-3-2) against the No. 1 Crusaders (21-2-1).
The matchup lived up to the billing.
“They’re a great team as well,’’ said Bossert. “They played wonderfully. It was a really entertaining championship game. You saw a bunch of really great goals. There’s a reason why they have a lot of all-state players.’’
Unity Christian came in with five Finals titles and making its 10th championship game appearance.
The Crusaders struck quickly when Colin Nieuwenhuis’ corner kicked was converted into a header by Isaac Eppinga, for his first goal of the season, at the 33 minute, 20 second mark.
Country Day’s offensive pressure was evident, and at the 13:18 mark the Yellowjackets broke through when Alex Eby laced a shot in from 20 yards out to tie the game 1-1.
Fifteen minutes into the second half the Yellowjackets took their first lead when Stephen Brentano scored after Ammar Siddiqui’s corner kick was deflected at the 35:25 mark for a 2-1 lead.
Trailing for the first time, the Crusaders responded with the tying goal from Nieuwenhuis with 19:18 left in the second half.
“It’s an honor to be a captain for this team,’’ said Nieuwenhuis. “When we were down 2-1 and were just saying keep going. Keep pushing; 35 minutes left. That’s a long time. We get one, momentum shifts and that’s what happened. Then we ended up getting another one. Once we got to 2-2, we started playing better. I feel like that’s where it all shifted.
“Jack, he’s just a great kid. He’s a hard worker. He does everything we need him to. He can play up top, he can play the mid. He has had a lot of big goals in a lot of big games.’’
Both sides agreed it was a classic and how a state final should be played.
“(Country Day) has a lot of great players, so kudos to them,’’ said Unity Christian coach Ian Billin. “It was a great season. I’m just so proud of our guys. To go up 1-0 and then get scored on twice and go down 2-1. That changes the momentum. Our guys found a way.’’
PHOTOS (Top) Hudsonville Unity Christian’s Jack Kamminga (17) and Country Day’s Antonio Schimizzi battle for possession Saturday. (Middle) The Crusaders celebrate their sixth championship.
Join Robby Elliott as State Champs! takes a look at all of the action from the 2023 Boys Soccer Finals.