Unity Strikes Again in Division 2 Final

November 3, 2012

By Dean Holzwarth
Special to Second Half

KENTWOOD – Less than two minutes into the second half of Saturday's MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 championship game, Unity Christian senior goalkeeper Nick Woldyk saw Petoskey's Adam Bayer racing toward him on a breakaway.

Woldyk didn't flinch at the challenge, as he rushed out of the box and slapped away the attempt to preserve Unity's one-goal lead at the time.

The pivotal stop proved big for the third-ranked Crusaders, who went on to beat the Northmen 3-0 and win the title at Pat Patterson Athletic Field.

“I saw him coming at me, and pretty much what you have to do is come out and make the goal smaller and make your body big,” Woldyk said. “You hope to get a piece of it, and I did. It was pretty big because they were getting the momentum there.”

Unity led 1-0 when Woldyk came up big, and Petoskey coach Zach Jonker pointed to the play as a turning point.

“That save their keeper made two minutes into the second half was probably the play of the game,” Jonker said.

Junior forward Joe Honderd, who tallied Unity's second goal of the game, said Woldyk's effort was key.

“Nick came out and made a great save that had to be made,” he said. “That really helped us out, and if they would've scored, I think it could've been a different outcome.”

The victory capped off another remarkable season for the state's perennial powerhouse, which finished 25-2.

It wrapped up the Crusaders' third MHSAA crown in the last six years after they also won in 2007 and 2009.

It was their fifth Finals appearance in the past eight years. They finished runner-up in 2005 and 2011 (Division 3).

“As a coach, you want to be peaking come tournament time, and that's exactly what this team did,” Unity coach Randy Heethuis said. “We were playing our best soccer as a team, and we defended very well. We really came along defensively and played a lot better together.”

Unity got on a roll after losing 3-1 to Holland last month.

It ripped off 10 straight wins, including upsets of No. 1 Spring Lake and No. 2 Ada Forest Hills Eastern in Regional play, and outscored opponents 37-5.

“I think that was the toughest region in the state for Division 2, and that was huge,” Heethuis said. “The entire tournament, we gave up one goal over the run of play, and we really came along and played a lot better together defensively.

“It took a lot of work to get through that region, and I'm happy to finish it off with the exclamation point today.”

Petoskey (17-9-2), which lost to Unity in the 2009 Final, 3-0, played well after allowing an early goal in the first half.

The second half was much different, however, as Unity used its size and speed to pepper the goal.

The Crusaders had eight shots on goal in the second half, compared to only two during the first 20 minutes.

“I thought once we absorbed the pressure, we settled in and looked OK,” Jonker said. “We knew (we) could not possess the ball, and maybe we should've played more direct, but it is the most imposing team we've played all season. We had a couple of breakdowns, and they converted.”

Unity senior Jake Love put the final touches on Unity's championship run with a beautiful goal in the right corner from 20 yards out.

“We really stepped it up in the tournament, and I'm proud of my boys,” Love said. “We had much more intensity than during the (regular) season, and going out like this my senior year is wonderful. I wouldn't want to leave any other way than winning a state championship. It's great.”

Click for box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Hudsonville Unity Christian players huddle around their newly-won Division 2 championship trophy. (Middle) Unity Christian's Jake Love (left) works the ball past Petoskey's Eric Hoffman (blue 7).

Working Together, with Neighbor's Help, Schoolcraft Teams Making Selves at 'Home'

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

September 19, 2023

SCHOOLCRAFT — If it is a home game for the Schoolcraft football team, head over to Vicksburg.

Southwest CorridorIf it is soccer, go to Schoolcraft’s baseball field.

Things are a bit jumbled in the sports world for the Eagles this season.

With a new football field under construction and a new elementary school built on the site of the former practice fields, the two teams have been a bit displaced.

“Along with our football field, we had three practice fields that were utilized by a lot of our youth programs, Rocket football, youth soccer and our soccer and football programs,” Schoolcraft athletic director Bryan Applin said. “It’s taken a lot of understanding and flexibility from our coaches, players and our community to make it work out, and it has.”

Meanwhile, all four Eagles home football games will be played at Vicksburg High School.

If Vicksburg is home on a Friday, then the Eagles will play Saturday, including their Homecoming game this Saturday against Galesburg-Augusta.

The Eagles won their only “home” game so far, 33-14 against Kalamazoo United, and take a 3-1 record into Saturday’s contest.

The soccer team gave up its field to the football team for practices and has been practicing and playing their matches in the outfield of the baseball stadium.

For the soccer team, “It’s kind of an upgrade,” Applin said. “The soccer field they traditionally play on, they don’t have a scoreboard, they don’t have a bathroom facility, so we’ve been able to use the (baseball) scoreboard, the PA system, open up the bathroom building.

Schoolcraft’s Kolby Lloyd (10) works to break away from a tackler during a “home” game played at Vicksburg this fall. “The goal at some point is to give soccer a home, and we’re very, very excited about that.”

This year definitely has been challenging for the first-year AD, who credits Vicksburg athletic director Mike Roy with being a tremendous help.

“Mike Roy has been nothing but accommodating to us,” Applin said. “He’s been super helpful to me stepping in and assuming this scenario.

“The communities are so close, it almost feels like home for us.”

Roy said Jeff Clark, former Schoolcraft AD, reached out once the bond was passed for the new stadium last year.

“We had to make small accommodations as did Schoolcraft to make the schedules work,” Roy said. “By moving (Schoolcraft’s) games to Saturday, Vicksburg had to work with our Rocket football organization to make sure games were completed” before the Eagles varsity games.

Schoolcraft football coach Nathan Ferency said his team has been “rolling with the punches.

“These guys don’t care where it’s at; they just want to play football. We’re all taking care of each other. What a great place to be when everybody works together.”

When Jake Bailey heard the team would be playing at Vicksburg, “That got me excited,” the junior offensive tackle said. “They’ve got a really nice facility. I know the school will come out to support us no matter where we are, but it’s definitely different.

“Good thing we don’t play Vicksburg, although it would be fun because it would be both our home fields. The new facilities and being back at our home field at Roy Davis (Field next year) will be really fun.”

Vicksburg is Division 4, while Schoolcraft is Division 7.

Clockwise, from top left: Schoolcraft football coach Nathan Ferency, Schoolcraft boys soccer coach Jeremy Mutchler, soccer player Jack Curtis and football player Jake Bailey.The soccer team was “just being a team player” in giving up its own field for football practice, second-year head coach Jeremy Mutchler said.

“For the soccer team to be a team player and get behind the football team will help the community get behind the soccer team as well,” he added.

The biggest drawback is that part of the current field includes a piece of the baseball infield.

“The only odd thing is it is a smaller field, still regulation size, but smaller,” Mutchler said. “Part of the field is in the diamond, so we have to play in the dirt and it gets tricky, especially when you’re trying to throw it in or just play down the line.”

The move has cost the team a few home games.

“At the beginning of the year, we allowed schools, if they didn’t want to play here, we would go to their house,” Mutchler said. “We had to go to a few schools we would have played at home.”

Maintenance supervisor Eric McGehee was instrumental in preparing the field.

“He laid out exactly the parameters, so I was able to send that to all the ADs that were going to visit to give them an opportunity to decide whether that’s something they wanted to help us out for our home games,” Applin said. “A lot of schools were more than willing to come and play us to give our boys some home games. A couple wanted to be cautious and play on a more traditional surface, and we were able to make those arrangements as well.”

In only its second year as a varsity sport, the boys soccer team is still finding its identity, posting a 2-5 record so far.

Schoolcraft athletic director Bryan Applin has taken over the maneuvering of the teams’ home sites during his first year on the job.“We’re a very young team,” Mutchler said. “All juniors and freshmen. This is the juniors' second regular season. It’s all been a learning phase with maturity and sportsmanship.”

Junior captain Jack Curtis said he was a bit “bummed out” when he heard the team would move to the baseball field.

“The first practice, I drove over to our practice field,” he said. “No one was there.

“I drove over to the high school and saw everyone practicing (at the baseball field). I didn’t think a soccer field could fit on a baseball field.”

Curtis said in spite of the temporary move, “I’m just glad we can have some home games this year on Schoolcraft soil.”

As for Applin, he spent much of his career coaching basketball at both the high school and college levels and most recently worked as a salesman for Zeigler. His wife, Meredith, is an assistant coach for Western Michigan University’s women’s basketball team.

Ferency is appreciative of the work Clark and Applin have done to make this season’s changes relatively seamless.

“I’d like to highlight how great our athletic department is,” he said. “It takes a lot of moving pieces and parts to move people around and have a space for everybody.

“I’m really proud of our athletic department and all our coaches and kids for just rolling with the punches.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Schoolcraft’s varsity boys soccer team, including Nyan Wonders (15), faces Comstock this season on its field in the outfield of the baseball stadium. (2) Schoolcraft’s Kolby Lloyd (10) works to break away from a tackler during a “home” game played at Vicksburg this fall. (3) Clockwise, from top left: Schoolcraft football coach Nathan Ferency, Schoolcraft boys soccer coach Jeremy Mutchler, soccer player Jack Curtis and football player Jake Bailey. (4) Schoolcraft athletic director Bryan Applin has taken over the maneuvering of the teams’ home sites during his first year on the job. (Action photos by Stephanie Blentlinger/Lingering Memories Photography. Headshots and Applin photo by Pam Shebest.)