TOLONO — There will be a guaranteed first in five days.
When Unity’s Rockets take the field for the Class 3A football state title game, coach Scott Hamilton and his staff won’t be the only ones familiar with Memorial Stadium. Unity senior Mitch Negangard will be the first athlete from the school to play in two state title games. A freshman for the 2009 runner-up team, who started on the kickoff and punt return teams, he is one of 20 seniors on the current squad.
“It’s such an honor,” Negangard said. “To come from a school like this, where guys have busted their butts for four years is amazing, a blessing.”
Unity’s title-game appearance will be its fourth. Hamilton has won 186 games in his 19 years, but one victory has always eluded him.
“We’ve had a rough go up there,” Hamilton said. “We haven’t been able to figure out how to win there, but we’ll go back to work, go up the road and give it another go.”
In 2009, Negangard was one of two freshmen on the Unity roster at state. The other, Jordan McLaughlin, has moved to Indiana.
Unity’s impressive 56-21 semifinal victory Saturday against Greenville shows the Rockets mean business.
“We proved we’re a team to contend with,” quarterback Justin Deters said. “We like our chances against anyone. This is the best feeling in the world.”
While Unity is looking for its first season-ending win, title-game opponent Aurora Christian is the defending 3A champion.
Unity, ranked fifth in the final 3A state poll, faces the third-rated Eagles (also 12-1) in Friday’s 4 p.m. title game. Aurora Christian ended Sterling Newman’s unbeaten season in the semifinals on Saturday, 41-7.