For Muskegon, the 3.5 hour journey to northwest Ohio was worth every minute. Muskegon gave up some big plays early, but battled back to win a thriller over traditional powerhouse Sylvania Southview (OH), 40-37. The Big Reds look to back to their “old” form with many college prospects on both sides of the ball. Muskegon rushed for a staggering 409 yards — many of them behind big right tackle Antwan Billings, a potential Division I prospect who may be the most underrated lineman in the state. At 6-3, 275, he will most likely be a guard at the next level but has great reach and a good motor. Billings showed great versatility in run-blocking and pass-blocking.
The Big Reds showed a talented stable of players in the backfield as well, led by senior quarterback Jalen Smith. Smith looks like former Big Red QB Chris Crawford reincarnated. He has great command of the offense, and is a perfect fit to run the read option. Another bright spot was fullback John King, who led Muskegon in rushing with 152 yards on 21 carries and two TD’s. He runs angry and would be a great fit at the DII level with a team favoring a power running game. He’s being recruited by several GLIAC schools. The Big Reds’ other backs, Marcus Smith and Javontae Langston, both ran for over 100 yards behind a great senior offensive line.
On defense, Muskegon had a tough time early containing Southview quaterback Valdez Austin, a Bowling Green commit. Big defensive plays late in the game proved to be the difference for Muskegon, including a monumental goal-line stand with less than three minutes to play. The Big Reds were led on defense by Ronald Jenkins, a Muskgeon Heights transfer who was in the Cougars’ backfield all night. At defensive end, Jenkins caused a big fumble late in the game that shifted the momentum. Jenkins is another Muskegon player with great potential for playing at the next level. Anchoring the other side of the defensive line was Kenneth Finley. Finley displayed high-major talent with his ability to get to the quarterback. He also made big plays against the run. He’s big and fast to the football, and could quickly move up in our 2014 class rankings.
This Muskegon team played with the swagger and aggression reminiscent of its state title teams from a few years ago. After the game, head coach Shane Fairfield summed up the state of his team best. “We’re back to where we were under Tony,” Fairfield said. “We have a lot of seniors on this team; we’re back.”