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.