QB Jake Swander 6-0 200 Sr Grayling
OL TJ Patterson 6-3 250 Jr Reed City
OL Alex Roberts 6-0 210 Sr Hopkins
OL RJ Rudel 6-0 185 Sr Watervliet
OL Lucas Walesky 6-4 270 Sr Grayling
OL Douglas Wyman 6-0 270 Sr Mason County Central
RB Andy Corey 5-8 175 Sr Grand Rapids West Catholic
RB Justin Hull 5-9 175 Jr Constantine
RB Devin Mussell 6-0 180 Sr Shelby
WR Alex VanVleet 5-11 175 Sr Montague
WR Deven Schultz 5-10 170 Sr Watervliet
DL Dustin Childs 5-11 180 Sr Newaygo
DL Weston Dehaven 5-10 185 Sr Watervliet
DL Dave Dykstra 5-8 170 Sr Muskegon Oakridge
LB Eric Grannis 6-0 195 Sr Reed City
LB Kyle Herremans 5-11 180 Sr Kent City
LB Ben Rupert 6-1 215 Sr Montague
LB Drew Zwiers 6-2 210 Sr Grandville Calvin Christian
DB Jason McDonough 5-11 165 Jr Grand Rapids West Catholic
DB Andres Montoya 5-9 160 Sr Constantine
DB Will Noble 6-2 180 Sr Kalkaska
DB Dan Shoop 5-10 185 Sr Muskegon Oakridge
- Winners are italicized.
- All games are 1 pm Saturday unless otherwise noted.
- Playoff pick record: 73-13.
Muskegon 11-1 vs. Portage Central 12-0 at East Kentwood
Caledonia played valiantly in this semi last year, won by Muskegon. Undefeated Portage Central could too. Last week they doubled up Farmington Hills Harrison. Much hinges on the health of running back/linebacker Jacob Allan and QB Ryan Mergener, both knocked out of PC’s historic school regional win. They team up with senior Jerrod Davis, all bringing something a bit different to the field, behind an athletic, vet line; Portage Central has been able to pound out points all season. Just not against a defense as strong at all three levels like the Big Reds. Midland’s offense was in the negative against them last week. Nor has the Mustangs’ D seen a player as dangerous as Deshuan Thrower, Muskegon’s old school athlete at QB. Last season at Ford Field, he came off the bench to almost lead an epic comeback against Brother Rice. This season, he starts and finishes.
Zeeland West 11-1 vs. Stevensville Lakeshore 9-3 at Vicksburg
The way West is rolling, it looks like you’ll have to break 50 to beat them. Lakeshore has a shot if it can do what Wayland did with a stout albeit ultimately futile regular season performance at Zeeland. Wayland played terrific assignment football on West’s playmakers and at least kept what were typically 75-yard TDs, to 15-yard gains. It’s just that ultimately the Dux’ size and fast pace wear you down.
Comstock Park 12-0 vs. Grand Rapids South Christian 11-1 at Rockford
Near perfect matchup. This is a repeat of last year’s semifinal, which South Christian won 21-7. No way it’s 2 TDs either way this time around. Your gut tells you Comstock Park is due. And it’s not sentimental — the Panthers are undefeated and did it against some good teams, that’s a hard-earned mark. They still haven’t seen a team as big and talented across every level like South Christian. Both teams have playmakers. May come down to CP having more of them on defense.
Menominee 12-0 vs. Muskegon Oakridge 11-1 4 pm Saturday at Marquette’s Superior Dome
Oakridge’s bus will have already left by the time you read this. They’re round three of a UP football jamboree at NMU. Who would guess that’s where one finds Godfather of Soul, Meominee’s James Brown and his 25 TDs. Oakridge’s D is looking at Brown and more, with all of Menominee’s success this is the highest scoring team in school history. But don’t count out Oakridge as QB Austin Wright is a gamer who can beat you with arm or legs, while James Abriatis has a 1970s football name and 21st century running back game.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 8-4 vs. Livonia Clarenceville 12-0 at Battle Creek Harper Creek
Here’s an example of why the MHSAA’s playoff points only tell some of the story. Losses count for nothing, so while Clarenceville was ringing up Ws, West Catholic was losing against a tougher schedule. Yet surely improving, apparently, per this postseason run. Clarenceville’s athletic advantage is a myth. No one on the field matches the size/speed/explosion ratio of West Catholic senior Mitchell Stanitzek. And the one closest is a teammate, Stanitzek’s opposite end junior Bryce Witham. With junior LaSavian Majewski healthy, West Catholic now has two backs who can break big with the Alabama transfer and senior Andy Corey. Said transfer Majewski ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash at our March combine. Should be a double-digit win for the Westsiders.
Clinton 12-0 vs. Shelby 11-1 at Middleville
Shelby has found unprecedented success with coach Lorenzo Rodriguez, and are playing in consecutive state semifinals. They combine tough D with a multi-talented offense, which last week saw Devin Mussell run for 5 TDs against Schoolcraft. That may be tough to duplicate against unbeaten Clinton.
Crystal Falls Forest Park 12-0 vs. Beal City 12-0 10 am Saturday at Marquette’s Superior Dome
When you get to the regional level, don’t expect spankings like the 55-0 Beal City put on St. Ignace. Senior QB Kurt Gross has not just a prolific but diverse Beal City offense, with senior Ty Rollin out of the backfield and senior Ryan Tilmann. This will be Forest Park’s first game against a non-UP team. They have a stud in Lee Graff, the 6-0, 190 junior is Forest Park’s leading rusher and tackler.
Muskegon Catholic Central 10-2 vs. New Lothrop 12-0 at Greenville
In its proud history, this is the highest scoring team in Muskegon Catholic history. They’ll need the points, to keep up with New Lothrop’s Amari Coleman.
Division 3-4 Offense
QB Jalen Brooks 6-3 185 Sr Cadillac
OL Conor Conaboy 5-11 260 Sr East Grand Rapids
OL Travis Steenwyk 6-1 280 Sr South Christian
OL Alec Stevens 6-5 280 Sr West Branch Ogemaw Heights
OL Colton VanDyke 6-0 230 Sr Wayland
OL Bryce Wilker 6-6 280 Jr Belding
TE Zach Poppema 6-1 195 Sr Zeeland West
WR Nate Couturier 5-10 150 Jr Allendale
WR Sam Harrison 5-10 185 Sr Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern
RB Mike Miklusicak 5-9 190 Sr Wayland
RB Timothy Wielinga 6-0 215 Sr Paw Paw
Division 3-4 Defense
DL Jake Achterberg 6-1 200 Sr Stevensville Lakeshore
DL Chris Hendricks 6-5 275 Sr Fruitport
DL Alex Lake 6-2 225 Sr Byron Center
DL Todd Postma 6-5 245 Sr Grand Rapids South Christian
LB Ethan Badger 6-1 185 Sr Grand Rapids Christian
LB TJ Baker 5-11 170 Jr Cadillac
LB Trent Kujawa 5-9 190 Sr Zeeland West
DB Ben Hartley 6-2 180 Jr West Branch Ogemaw Heights
DB Seth Nyberg 6-0 185 Sr Zeeland East
DB Eric VanVoorst 6-2 180 Jr Grand Rapids South Christian
DB Jimmy Whalen 5-10 170 Sr Comstock Park
Division 1-2 Offense
QB Deshaun Thrower 6-1 195 Sr Muskegon
OL Stephen Hanson 6-4 285 Sr Muskegon Reeths-Puffer
OL John Keenoy 6-3 270 Jr East Kentwood
OL Hunter Lassiter 6-4 255 Sr Portage Central
OL Matt Reitsma 6-2 240 Sr Lowell
OL Alek VanVossen 6-4 245 Sr Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central
TE Matt Capasso 6-3 230 Sr Portage Central
WR Colin Calloway 6-1 185 Sr East Kentwood
WR Marquon Sargent 6-1 170 Sr Muskegon Mona Shores
RB Jerrod Davis 5-11 190 Sr Portage Central
RB Julian Munday 6-1 195 Sr Muskegon Reeths-Puffer
Division 1-2 Defense
DL Josh Colegrove 6-0 220 Jr Lowell
DL Zach Evans 6-2 240 Sr Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills
DL Jacob Sims 5-9 245 Sr Muskegon
LB Kody Bauswell 6-1 185 Sr Hudsonville
LB Randy Garvin 6-1 215 Sr Rockford
LB Will Hunt 6-1 225 Sr Muskegon
LB John Hall 6-0 195 Sr Muskegon
DB Trevor Coughlin 6-1 180 Sr Rockford
DB Jeff Houston 6-1 190 Sr Lowell
DB Danil Young 5-11 165 Jr Grandville
DB Alex Zimmerman 5-11 160 Sr West Ottawa
- This is the first of the All-Lake Area Teams that will come out over the following two weeks. The All-Lake Underclassman Team gives recognition to freshman and sophomore contributors already making varsity impact. There will also be Division 1 & 2, Division 3 & 4, Division 5 & 6 and Division 7 & 8 All-Lake Teams, All-Lake Dream Teams for Big Schools and Small Schools and the Junior All-Lake Team for class of 2015 players who didn’t make the divisional or dream teams. These honor teams are based on 2013 high school season performance, not recruiting rankings.
QB Pat Naughton 6-1 190 So Comstock Park
OL Derices Brown 6-2 275 So Muskegon
OL Juanye Johnson 6-3 275 So Muskegon
OL Karson Murley 6-0 260 So Lowell
OL Tommy Roush 6-3 270 So Traverse City West
OL Mason Shirrell 6-3 215 Fr Muskegon Orchard View
RB Malik Smith 5-8 180 So Boyne City
RB James Wyrick 5-8 180 So Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills
WR Hunter Broersma 6-1 178 So Muskegon Mona Shores
WR DeAndre Oakes-Owens 6-1 170 Muskegon Reeths-Puffer
WR Gabe Steed 5-9 150 So Lowell
DL Gabe Bauman 6-3 230 So Rockford
DL Christian Boyd 6-2 270 So Muskegon Mona Shores
DL Nate Umlor 6-3 190 Fr Allendale
DL Zach VanValkenburg 6-4 220 So Zeeland West
LB Seth Barnette 5-10 210 So McBain
LB Michael Holdship 5-11 200 So Cadillac
LB Caleb Viening 5-9 180 So Zeeland East
DB Luke Bakker 5-10 170 So West Ottawa
DB Casey Brinks 5-10 170 So Zeeland West
DB Marlon Dorsey 5-11 155 So East Kentwood
DB Jake Martin 5-11 170 So Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern
- Winners are italicized.
- All games are 1 pm Saturday unless otherwise noted.
- Playoff pick record: 61-15.
Hudsonville 8-3 at Flint Carman-Ainsworth 10-1
Hudsonville has won five in a row. The Eagles are big and physical, with junior QB Mason Opple mixing it up with various offensive threats like senior running back Mark Dieterle, senior receiver Curt Doornbos and junior running back Kyle Toth, who was all over the place defensively in their win over Rockford. Key for both defenses will be containing the quarterbacks, Hudsonville’s Opple and C-A senior Malik Seales. Pay less mind to the teams’ records, and recognize the Eagles’ O-K Red pedigree, the pace and power of that style football, make them the favorite.
Midland 10-1 at Muskegon 10-1
Muskegon embarrassed Midland in last year’s regional 49-21, and this time around have the home field. The only thing that could stop the Big Reds in this one is Lowell hangover. But that’s less of a concern for a program that knows how to do it in November.
Farmington Hills Harrison 10-1 at Portage Central 10-1
Harrison doesn’t have as tough a schedule in the OAA-White as when it was in the Western Lakes, and make a rare trip West as a result. Harrison lore and mystique may be lost on the iphone generation. Mill Coleman and John Miller? That was so long ago, their exploits were on fishwrap, not Hudl. Portage Central is a physical, athletic team, similar to Caledonia last year that made the D2 semifinals.
Zeeland West 10-1 at Mt. Pleasant 10-1
The Lakeshore is going to come crashing down on the middle dwellers. Now that soph QB Casey Brinks has become a runner in his own right for Zeeland West, what was already the Lake Area’s most potent offense is that much more virile. MP back Michael Tweh will get the Oilers on the board, but the Dux’ offense is too big, fast, powerful and relentless.
Byron Center 8-3 at Stevensville Lakeshore 8-3
Both these teams have blown up my bracket. It’s come around for Denny Dock’s team at Lakeshore, as it was bound to. They’re winning with defense and a senior QB, Mike Adams, who in last week’s payback defeat of St. Joseph, ran 20 times for 238 yards and 3 TDs (one of them 78 yards). Byron Center has three dangerous backs, in QB Jake Bylsma and senior running backs Jarod Rodgers and Erik Chard. Colleges looking for pass-rush linebackers should be all over this one, with Byron Center’s 6-3, 215 senior Alex Lake and Lakeshore’s 6-1, 200 senior Jake Achterberg. As if there was going to be much passing to rush in this one.
Cadillac 11-0 at Comstock Park 11-0 7 pm Friday
Comstock Park has played the tougher schedule in Grand Rapids, but to nitpick too much an undefeated record is to underestimate a Cadillac team that’s surpassed everyone’s expectations except their own. Being not that distant each other on 131, CP and Cadillac have shared two opponents. Cadillac beat both Traverse City West and Bay City John Glenn in close ones, while Comstock Park had a ballgame from TC West, but handled John Glenn easily. The Vikings may have less talent than last year, but is a better team. There are already major contributors in the junior and sophomore classes, so even after QB Jalen Brooks graduates, they’ll be back in the playoffs. That’s the position Comstock Park found itself sans Jake Brown. All that’s ensued has been the best season in school history and a sophomore QB, Pat Naughton, has played the most efficient ball of his career in the postseason. CP’s defense is like a Mini-Muskegon, strong at all three levels, led by Pass Rush Piece de Resistance Ryan Gruszka; leading tackler Craig Armock; and DB Sam “Lucky” LaRoche. Cadillac hasn’t seen a back like the Panthers’ Jake Bush. And that means all kinds of trouble.
Battle Creek Pennfield 10-1 vs. Grand Rapids South Christian 10-1 @ Byron Center 7 pm Friday
There’s just no comparison between these teams’ schedules. Actually there is a comparison, and it’s been a much tougher route to 10-1 for the Sailors. As well as the KVA has acquitted itself in the playoffs, that success is with smaller schools. They may not be as fast as last year’s state championship team, but South Christian could be better overall in 2013.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 7-4 at Olivet 10-1
These teams last met in the 2010 state finals. West Catholic won that one, and should again en route to another Ford Field appearance, that “4″ be damned.
Millington 9-2 at Muskegon Oakridge 10-1
Oakridge’s D came up big in their 22-20 win last week over Reed City. Millington is thick up front, Oakridge can knock heads itself with 6-5, 305 Tony Curry and 6-0, 265 Steve Stadel.
Schoolcraft 10-1 at Shelby 10-1
Shelby has had to come from behind the first two rounds of the postseason. If they turn it over against Schoolcraft like they did last week against Calvin Christian, it could be a tough go. But Lorenzo Rodriguez is building something special in Shelby. Not that it’s been particularly easy for Schoolcraft. It took an interception with under 30 seconds to play to seal last week’s win over Watervliet.
Constantine 7-4 at Clinton 11-0
Constantine has taken its offense up a notch in the playoffs, scoring nearly 50 points a game. But Clinton’s not undefeated by giving up 50 a game.
Lake City 10-1 at Ishpeming 11-0
The UP could be where Lake City’s dreams die, against the defending state champoin. But not before QB Drew Marion gives the Cheesehead fans some Brett Favre flashbacks.
Decatur 8-3 at Homer 10-1
With an offense stagnant at the wrong time, Decatur’s got to figure out something to do with Homer QB Alex White. Lawton didn’t, and he threw for five TDs. But they can beat you on the ground, too, with senior running back Chaz Hopkins.
St. Ignace 9-2 at Beal City 11-0 7 pm Friday
These schools met in last year’s semifinals, which Beal City won. The Highland Conference champion will beat you with various backs. They’d better, because if they have to go to the air, St. Ignace soph Gage Kreski is averaging an interception per game.
Muskegon Catholic Central 9-2 at Mendon 11-0
It’s been a real title drought for these small school powerhouses. Mendon hasn’t come home with the hardware since 2011, MCC 2008. Muskegon Catholic should be the first team to reach double-digits against a Mendon anchored by junior lineman Logan Slaughter, but that may not be enough.
Class of 2014
Cory Carr 6-1 240 Sr LB/OL Portage Central
Carr and CMU commitment Hunter Lassitter give Portage Central two strong players guys on the left side of the offensive line, with Carr at tackle and Lassitter at tight end; and on the right side of the defense, with Lassiter on the line and Carr at linebacker. In their 40-7 win over Battle Creek Lakeview, Carr laid out his man to start the dominoes as Jerrod Davis was sprung for an 80-yard TD. Later he recovered a Central fumble on the 50-yard line. When they needed a fourth-and-one conversion, they ran Jacob Allan to Carr and Lassiter’s side — it ended up a 30-yard TD. Allen is a good back, who will block and accelerates well for his size. At 6-2, 200 after getting through that big initial hole, he broke a tackle, then followed downfield blocking the rest of the way. The Mustangs’ other back, Davis, has wiggle and a second gear. Back to Carr, good instincts and size at linebacker but he may be best suited to be an interior offensive lineman in college, as he may not have the speed and mobility for pass coverage. You want to find a spot for him, does a lot right and liked how he competed both ways against a physical, previously undefeated Lakeview team.
Kenneth Finley 6-4 280 DL Muskegon Western Michigan
In their regular season meeting, Lowell’s offensive line set the tone early with quick, aggressive blocking against Muskegon. The Red Arrows won that one. But the Big Reds have been tapering for November, and it was a fitter, dialed-in defensive front that turned the tables last Friday in Lowell. Finley has long been the Lake Area’s top defensive prospect in 2014, and if anything he’s separated himself, with over 20 tackles for loss this season. He also played some tight end when Muskegon went to its goal line offense. Finley wasn’t doing it against chumps on the left side of Lowell’s offensive line. But senior tackle Alex Kaminski is a 5-11, 195 middle linebacker, and while sophomore guard Karson Murley is a big kid with a bright future, he was, well, a sophomore going against a BCS-caliber senior. With Finley crashing in the left side, small but stout and explosive Muskegon tackle Jacob Sims got in for two sacks of his own. They had Lowell’s prolific senior QB Kyler Shurlow getting hit, hurrying throws, and looking like a mortal when he ran. Shurlow was intercepted three times, after just four picks in the previous 11 games.
Jeff Houston 6-1 190 Sr DB/WR Lowell
With soph Gabe Steed making an impact since being called up from the JV, Lowell QB Kyler Shurlow finished the season the beneficiary of five different receivers who could both get open, and catch the ball. It was Houston — a fourth-year varsity senior — making all Red Arrow TD grabs in their playoff loss to Muskegon. Those same ball skills were evident defensively, where he made a good read, break and pick of Shurlow’s counterpart, star QB Deshaun Thrower.
Justin Liptak 6-4 220 Sr TE Cadillac
He missed last season, and didn’t play until week 5 of this year after shoulder surgery. Liptak’s healthy at the right time, giving Cadillac the kind of big, athletic upperclassman they’ll need to compete against Comstock Park, another undefeated team with much of just that. He caught a shovel pass for a two-point conversion in the Vikings’ close district win over Ogemaw Heights. Liptak will have some college options given his size, athletic ability (he played on Cadillac’s state semifinalist basketball team) and grades.
Drew Marion 6-2 195 Sr ATH Lake City
Take a D1 college prospect, place him against D7 high school competition, run a no-huddle offense with said athlete at quarterback … and ridiculous numbers ensue. Another day, another dollar for Marion last week against Lincoln Alcona. In a 56-14 Lake City win, he scored six TDs on 18 runs and 139 yards, and was good on 14-of-20 throws for 211 yards and a TD. The next opponent will be a bit stiffer — defending state champion, undefeated Ishpeming. As a QB, just turn the Mitten upside down and slide it down a bit, he plays like Steve McNair and other Southern Sons. Surprisingly nimble footed for his physical style. Marion piles up big plays on designed runs, and connects on enough bombs to keep the field open. Just watch out for those Persian women. Or hasn’t that yet reached the Highland Conference? 2014 is a weird class for QBs, in that the very best probably won’t play the position — or the sport — in college. So here are the best who will go out and win a football game right now.
Lake Area Top Dozen Senior Quarterbacks
1. Deshaun Thrower 6-1 195 Sr Muskegon Stony Brook-basketball
2. Jalen Brooks 6-3 185 Sr Cadillac
3. Drew Marion 6-2 195 Sr Lake City
4. Kyler Shurlow 6-1 195 Sr Lowell
5. Nick Swore 6-2 190 Sr Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian
6. Jared McNitt 6-0 200 Sr West Ottawa
7. Haiden Majewski 6-0 180 Sr Allendale
8. Tyler Sigler 6-3 200 Sr Grand Rapids Christian
9. Jake Swander 6-0 195 Sr Grayling
10. Luke Traver 6-3 185 Sr Watervliet
11. Chad Samuel 6-0 170 Sr Reed City
12. Rodney Davis 6-2 190 Sr Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills
Mitch Stanitzek 6-4 235 Sr DL/TE Grand Rapids West Catholic Eastern Michigan
He’s doubly relevant. West Catholic is making its standard month-long playoff campaign. And the school to which Stanitzek had verbally committed, EMU, fired coach Ron English. The new staff will likely go hard to maintain that commitment, he brings so much as a recruit. Stanitzek is one of the upper echelon that look the part, lest the part, then most importantly is the real thing on the field. He’s a matchup nightmare with his size/speed/explosion, demanding double-teams on both sides of the ball. Now that West Catholic is playing D5 teams every week, his physical advantages are even more pronounced.
Jordan Waire 6-1 175 Sr DB Muskegon
He’s a two-year starter at cornerback who has really come into his own as a senior. Waire was part of the group that came over from Muskegon Heights when that school restructured in 2012, so he had the adjustment period to big-time high school football and the responsibilities thereof. Now he’s playing relaxed and most importantly with confidence. In the regular season he only had two passes completed against him, while intercepting three. The Big Reds’ defensive backfield was shaky last season, and they still reached the D2 state final. This year, it’s just a third strong layer of what has become good, veteran defense at every level.
Class of 2015
Ben Hartley 6-2 180 Jr ATH West Branch Ogemaw Heights
With some maturity and toughness, he could be the heir apparent to Jalen Brooks as the Big North’s dynamic, athletic, all-everything QB. Hartley nearly single-handedly gave Brooks’ Cadillac team everything they could handle last Friday. The Vikings kept their undefeated record intact 37-27, enduring 72- and 61-yard first-half TDs from Hartley. This is the second season that Hartley has shared snaps with senior Devin Griffus. He finished the year with over 1,600 yards and 18 TDs running/passing/catching. He’s more athlete than polished QB, but Hartley does have a strong arm. He started both ways for the Falcons to lead the team with five interceptions.
The last five years the winner of the Division 2 game on week two of the playoffs between Muskegon and Lowell has played in the championship game Thanksgiving weekend. This year might make it six in a row. You can see why the Red Arrow Stadium was full to overflowing last Friday night. While the first quarter didn’t quite live up to the game of the week billing, it did feature a lot of ineffective offense and punts, lots of punts. There will be more about the Lowell punting game later but sufice it to say that the Lowell faithful loudly implored their punt return team to “catch the ball” in the second half. It’s true. I can’t make up stuff that good.
The quarter did feature superb defense by both teams. Lowell shutting down any inside running game and stretching out and stopping the Muskegon wide game and QB Deshaun Thrower. On the Muskegon side of the ball, the big line controlled the running game as well and a strong defensive line rush kept Lowell QB Kyler Shurlow throwing off of his back foot and mostly, throwing high. I counted eight change of possessions in the first quarter, the last one coming on a fumble after the one big pass play ( 35 yards) of the quarter by Lowell. That turned the ball over on the Muskegon 30 yard line. Then, on the third play of the second quarter, Muskegon struck from their side of midfield to lead 7-0.
The very next play added to the Red Arrow Stadium gloom as Alezay Coleman intercepted Lowell QB Shurlow’s pass and took it to the Lowell 34. On that first play after the turnover, Lowell’s outside containment that had suffocated the Muskegon wide game, faltered and the fleet Thrower broke through for the second Big Red touchdown of the first half. The Lowell fans responded with encouragement for their Red Arrows. Thus enlivened, the Red Arrow team drove the ball in at 6:58 of the second quarter following an interception by Jeff Houston of a Thrower pass. This tightened the game. Big Red 14: Red Arrows 7. Fortunately, for the Red Arrows, a drive with just seconds left on the clock by Muskegon ended the half on a missed field goal by the usually sure footed Adrien Briseno.
The third quarter featured inspired line play by the Big Red defensive line and Kenny Finley, who proved why he is a prized recruit to Division I football. They shut down the Lowell running game to the left side of the Muskegon line and Finley spent most of the game in the Lowell backfield forcing hurried, errant throws or helping make sacks. The Muskegon defense kept the smaller Red Arrow defense on the field for most of the quarter and, again, at 5:42 of the third quarter the Red Arrow deep men gave up a long pass play to William Roberson from the apt named Muskegon QB, Thrower. At the end of three quarters Muskegon 2, Lowell 7 and the Red Arrow fans were indeed seeing red.
But great programs don’t have teams that yield easily and Lowell is a great program. At 10:54 of the fourth quarter, Lowell responded with a touchdown to Jeff Houston. Once again, it was a one touchdown game, Muskegon 21, Lowell 14. I commented to the faithful at Red Arrow stadium around me that this could be my third overtime game. Yet, it was not to be as the Muskegon Big Red linemen started to wear down the game Lowell defense. The Big Red power game took over to add a fourth touchdown on a short run by Javauntae Thomas at 8:50 of the fourth.
Again, Lowell put together some incredible plays, some on fourth down, to keep their hopes alive. However, they were stopped short of a first down deep in the Muskegon territory. The final Lowell score come with but seconds left and made it a one touchdown lead again. However, the onside kick at 16 seconds of the game failed and the Big Red of Muskegon move on at 10-1 to play Midland at Historic Hackley field next week in the Regional Final. The Red Arrows of Lowell end another superb season at 10-1. The real story of the game was one of field position as on every punt exchange, Lowell lost ground both to ineffective punting and poor punt fielding. That little extra yardage figured immensely when Lowell receivers were tracked down deep in the Muskegon red zone by the speedier Muskegon defensive backfield twice in the second half on what would usually have been long, Lowell touchdowns. On these two deep threats, the Lowell offense was unable to cover the last dozen yards to the end zone and two scores which would have tied the game earlier in the fourth quarter failed to materialize. Effectively, the Big Red were able to run the clock down just low enough to prevent a Lowell comet back. But not before the fans of southwest Michigan were feted to another exciting football game between these two storied schools. There is promise of more great games in the future.
Muskegon. A special shout out to the entire offensive line which is an impressive group of young men. Second, an alert for teams facing the Big Red this year and that is watch out for the Big guy on defense, Kenny Finley and that line strong line backing corps. Another shout out goes to the Big Red defensive backs that while they gave up some big gains, they did not allow the big play. And finally, a shout out to their exceptional Quarterback, Mr. Thrower. Good luck in the weeks ahead. No disrespect to the next opponent, but I truly believe this will be the sixth year in a row the winner of the big week two game plays at Ford Field.
Lowell: A special shout out to the corners and defensive backs of the Red Arrows. Understandably, you must be disappointed with the final outcome and the end of a season of much promise. But, with the exception of a handful of big plays, you young men held an explosive Muskegon offense in check for 48 minutes. A salute to Kyler Shurlow, Jeff Houson, Benjamin Bingham and Kanon Deane who all played extremely well. I want to give a salute to the defensive line of the Red Arrows and especially Josh Colgrove, Kyle Blough and Josiah Buys. You young men took on the bigger Muskegon offense and played them heads up for the entire game. Also, I want to thank the family and friends of Josiah who shared their spot in the stadium with this old guy from Holland. Congratulations on a fine season and an on being excellent football team.