By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
We love telling stories of our athletes and coaches showing good sportsmanship, often sacrificing for others especially in moments when victory appears within grasp.
The East Grand Rapids boys soccer and Pellston girls cross country teams provided us examples again earlier this month of how doing the right thing – regardless of the scoreboard – always leaves the lasting impression.
He shoots, both teams score
On Sept. 12, East Grand Rapids’ boys soccer team trailed Grand Rapids Christian 2-1. The victor would gain a significant upper hand in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold race. And these are also two of the best teams in the state; EGR is ranked No. 10 in Division 2 this week, and the Eagles are No. 4.
During the 66th minute, Grand Rapids Christian fired a shot at the East Grand Rapids goal, to the lower corner of the net. The ball continued through and past the goal – apparently missing it completely since the net did not catch the ball.
The two officials closest to the play, unable to rule for certain if the ball traveled inside or outside the goal post, were not going to count a goal. But Pioneers coach A.J. Dufendach saw from his perspective that the Eagles’ shot did indeed score – and he made sure to confirm it to the trailing official, who also believed the ball had crossed inside the post. Only then did the officials award Grand Rapids Christian a goal to make the score 3-1.
With three minutes to play, East Grand Rapids did score a second goal, but the game ended with the Eagles winning 3-2 – although Dufendach and his assistants also showed championship character despite the loss on the scoreboard, as detailed both by the head official in his report to the MHSAA and East Grand Rapids’ opponent.
“In a world where doing whatever it takes to win is the norm, we want to thank EGR for leading with honor and integrity,” Grand Rapids Christian posted as part of its online “Eagle Sport Report.” “Well done coach. You set an unforgettable example of what is most important in educational athletics. Thank you for taking this rivalry to a new level.”
Most memorable finish
The Petoskey News-Review called it “the finish of the day,” and that’s tough to argue.
During Ellsworth’s House on the Hill cross country event Sept. 16, Pellston lead runner Alice Principi gave up a probable top-10 finish in the Class D race to assist Ellsworth freshman Judith Veldbloom, who was struggling to finish and went to the ground during the final stretch.
Principi, who would go on to finish 11th as her team took second, gathered Veldbloom up and then stayed with her across the finish line.
“Alice sacrificed some time and places to help a struggling competitor at the end of the race,” Pellston coach Chelsey Hermann told the News-Review. “It was an incredible demonstration of sportsmanship and shows just the kind of person she is.”
Ellsworth athletic director Brian Certa, in a letter to the MHSAA, echoed the appreciation: “What a tremendous example and witness to all who watched,” he wrote.
PHOTO: Pellston’s Alice Principi, left, assists Ellsworth runner Judith Veldbloom during the House on the Hill Invitational. (Photo courtesy of Ellsworth’s athletic department.)