Grand Rapids South Christian High School in Cutlerville, Mich., won the Michigan high school Division 4 state football championship Nov. 25, defeating Goodrich High School 28-0 in the final game at Ford Field, home of the National Football League’s Detroit Lions.
While it was the fourth state championship in school history for the Sailors, it was the first time they had ever finished a season unbeaten. South Christian had a perfect 14-0 record, including five wins in the state playoffs by an average margin of 18.4 points per game.
“This was a tribute to how hard the kids worked in the off-season, their commitment to the weight room, getting themselves physically and mentally prepared for the season,” South Christian head coach Danny Brown said.
Brown has been part of all four South Christian state title teams—first as a running back and defensive back for the Sailors when they won their first championship in 2002, and then as an assistant coach on state title teams in 2012 and 2014. Brown said the players on this year’s team loved each other and that chemistry was a big part of the team’s success.
“This was a team that truly bonded together, from our top player to our 52(nd). The guys got along great. They were a joy to be around,” said Brown, who attends nearby Caledonia (Mich.) Christian Reformed Church.
Part of the team’s bonding for the past 10 years has included participating in “Victory Day,” a yearly event celebrated by many U.S. schools to welcome young and older community members with varying abilities to experience a game setting, such as carrying the football or scoring a touchdown. (See a 2015 FOX 17 news story about South Christian’s 4th annual Victory Day.) One student who took part in South Christian’s Victory Day eight years ago, Jimmy Thull, was a member of this year’s championship team.
“He just fell in love with football,” Brown said. “The next fall he was in our middle school program and from there he played on the freshman and (junior varsity) team, and he played varsity as a junior.” (FOX 17 News featured Thull in a story about the Sailors ahead of the championship game.)
Brown said the school received emails from some parents of opposing players, complimenting the team for its sportsmanship even as they were winning.
“We love to compete and want to win, but we also want to show our light, to show our community that we can win the right way,” Brown said.