For the fourth consecutive week, the Kalamazoo United football team’s game was decided by three points or fewer. The Titans kicked a 38-yard Heath Baldwin field goal through the uprights with 0.3 seconds remaining to secure a 31-28 road victory over the Schoolcraft Eagles. The victory gives the co-op its highest ever win total with a 7-2 regular season mark. Schoolcraft falls to 5-4 and has to hope they have enough playoff points to sneak into the playoff field and extend their postseason streak to nine seasons.
The Titans started strong, scoring not even two minutes into the game with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Eric Wenzel to Baldwin. Schoolcraft made it to the ten-yard line on their opening drive, but fumbled the ball on a quarterback keeper from Brady Flynn. Titan running back Brenden Warner bolted 83 yards, then Wenzel hit Christian Bartholomew for a seven-yard score and a 14-0 United lead.
Schoolcraft’s second drive found the end zone with a 38-yard rush from fullback Jack Hunt. The Eagles forced a quick punt and scored in the final minute of the first quarter on a 4-yard Hunt run to even the game at 14. The Titans made it back to the red zone, but Baldwin missed a 30-yard field goal. Schoolcraft engineered a 10-run, 80-yard drive and took the lead for the first time with a three-yard Hunt run. United would punt twice more before halftime with Schoolcraft punting and throwing an interception to Aaron Verkaik, keeping the Eagles up 21-14 at the break.
Schoolcraft punted to start the third quarter and Bartholomew had a stellar return, placing the Titans inside the 20. Wenzel threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Warner (although he had retreated all the way back to the 25 to fling it), tying the game midway through the third quarter at 21.
After trading punts into the fourth quarter, Wenzel was intercepted at midfield by Mark Melching, who brought the ball all the way to the five-yard line for Schoolcraft. Three plays later, Kobe Clark was in the end zone on a three-yard rush and Schoolcraft had a 28-21 lead with 6:15 left in the game.
United had no choice but punting after taking a big sack on their next drive, giving Schoolcraft the ball with the lead and under five minutes remaining. The Titans were able to force a turnover on downs, barely making a stop on a fourth and inches at the Titan 29-yard line with 2:36 remaining. After struggling to pass in the second half, the Titans used a 59-yard Warner rushing touchdown to even the game with 1:42 left.
The Eagles made it past midfield and were closing in on field goal range in the final minute, but a running back pass attempt by Kobe Clark was intercepted by Bartholomew, giving United the ball with 44 seconds left at their own 32. A 28-yard reception in traffic by Baldwin pushed the Titans to the Eagle 21 with 19 seconds remaining. A spike and two incompletions left a fourth down and 10 with 6.5 seconds to go.
The kicking team took the field with fireworks visible beyond the goalposts from nearby McCamley Field at Portage Central. The snap and hold were solid and Baldwin booted it through from 38 yards out for the 31-28 win.
Unofficially, Brenden Warner rushed for 285 yards on 23 carries with a rushing and receiving touchdown. Eric Wenzel was 17-35 for 190 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Heath Baldwin had 102 receiving yards off six catches and a touchdown.
Schoolcraft tallied 351 rushing yards. Jack Hunt had 202 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries. Kobe Clark added 132 rushing on 17 tries with one score. Brady Flynn and Clark were a combined 0-5 passing with two interceptions.
Schoolcraft and United are now 1-1 against each other, as the Eagles had won the previous meeting in 2014. Schoolcraft had dominated Hackett Catholic and Kalamazoo Christian prior to the co-op’s forming, going a combined 16-1 against the two schools.
Kalamazoo United will be in the postseason for the second time in the co-op’s four-year history next weekend and has a decent chance to host their game thanks to Friday’s win. Schoolcraft must wait until Sunday’s selection show to see if they sneak into the field at 5-4. Listen back to week nine’s game below: