Photos by Cody Ottinger, Zach Zweigle and Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
NORTON SHORES – Pundits may have doubted Muskegon’s football team entering Friday’s crosstown showdown against Mona Shores.
A packed crowd on homecoming night at Sailor Stadium left as believers following the Big Reds’ runaway 49-28 victory, which was punctuated by big plays, a number of them in the running game.
In the CatchMark SportsNet Game of the Week, Division 3 fourth-ranked Muskegon (6-1) scored on four plays of 50-plus yards, the Big Reds amassed a whopping 448 yards on the ground and they took command atop the OK Green Conference by improving to 5-0 with two games remaining in league play.
In the week leading up to the game, and in past interviews for that matter, Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield stopped short of calling Muskegon vs. Mona Shores a rivalry.
“Like I said in my pregame interviews all week, this is a lot bigger game to a lot more people than us because we know what’s at stake,” Fairfield said to his team in the postgame pep talk. “We know that it’s not about beating Mona Shores. For them, it’s about beating Muskegon. For us, it’s about winning every game.”
Since a 49-14 home loss to Detroit Cass Tech in Week 2, Muskegon has won five straight games by a combined tally of 255-48.
Division 2 eighth-ranked Mona Shores, two-time defending state champ, is now 5-2 and 4-1, respectively.
“You never want to lose a game, but I told you, when we got punched against Cass Tech, it really made us grow up and we really realized that it’s time to play big-man football and they’ve been doing that week in and week out,” Fairfield, whose program has won six of its last seven meetings against rival Mona Shores, said in a media interview after the game.
The Big Reds have had their way with the Sailors over the course of time, 33-8. Mona Shores has been more competitive against Muskegon in recent seasons, although two years ago, the Big Reds clobbered the Sailors on their home field, 53-0.
Mona Shores got a little payback against Muskegon last year in a much closer game at Hackley Stadium, 21-14.
On Friday, the Sailors could not keep pace with the Big Reds’ big-play ability.
Muskegon sophomore Jakob Price busted loose for two long TD runs covering 70 and 99 yards, the latter coming on the first play following a goal-line stand by Muskegon with just under 5 minutes left in the third quarter. That made it 40-21. Price piled up a game-high 217 yards on just six carries.
“I caught a cramp,” said a smiling Price, who went to his knees in the end zone after the 99-yard dash. “I caught a cramp (in his right calf) back at the (Muskegon) 5-yard line. I just kept running. I wasn’t trying to go down. It was just amazing because I have never had to run that far – that’s my longest touchdown run.”
Big Reds sophomore Destin Piggee made plays all night. He scored on runs of 25 and 57 yards, plus he converted a reception over the middle into a 37-yard TD. Piggee matched Price with six carries and he totaled 123 rushing yards.
Aside from the goal-line stand and Price’s back-breaking run on the ensuing play, the turning point of the night came late in the first half, which was back-and-forth most of the way.
Mona Shores was driving deep into Muskegon territory, when Big Reds senior Tamareon Oakes stripped a Sailors receiver of the ball and senior Damari Foster scooped and scored on a game-changing 80-yard play for a 27-21 lead just 1:12 before the intermission.
That ignited an avalanche of 25 unanswered points as the Big Reds took complete command in the third quarter.
“As soon as I saw the ball pop out, I said, ‘We need this, we need this,’” said Foster, who in the second half scored on an 8-yard run. “I looked up and I saw grass and I ran – I just took off.
“Clear sailing. We needed that – momentum changer.”
Muskegon senior Myles Walton rushed for 88 yards and he was 3-of-8 passing for 113 yards with no interceptions. The four-year varsity starter at cornerback picked off a pass.
After the game, Walton was presented the Great American Rivalry Series MVP award.
“Last year, during COVID, it was a lot of times where we had to stop playing football and just not play football no more. And then football came back on, and then we’ve got to get back on that grind again,” Walton said, referring to last year’s 9-2 season, which ended in the state semifinals.
“COVID pretty much taught us seniors a lot of stuff, especially about the grit and work and the game ain’t over until it says fourth quarter (zeroes on the clock) and the scoreboard says what it says.”
Muskegon senior Meshaune Crowley led his team with eight tackles, while senior Dominic Sugin had six stops.
For Mona Shores, senior quarterback Mark Konecny turned in an impressive performance. The 6-foot, 200-pound first-year starter completed 16 of 27 passes for 215 yards with a TD and the one pick. The big and strong Konecny rushed 21 times for a team-high 121 yards and three TDs (2, 11, 2 yards).
Sailors Demetri Roberson caught three passes for 77 yards, including a 37-yard scoring strike. Senior Ryan McNiff had five receptions for 81 yards.
Senior Drew Sandberg paced Mona Shores with six tackles, while David Frederick Jr. made five stops.
“Muskegon did some great things well. We struggled moving the ball, we struggled defending them,” Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak said. “Obviously, (the scoop and score) was big. We were tied and felt we could get a touchdown. You think maybe you’ve got a chance to get some points and, boom, that happens. All of a sudden, you blink and it’s flipped.
“Our kids played hard. We came out the second half, they scored on the first possession. Our kids marched it all the way down and take it down to the 1 and then don’t punch it in. That’s demoralizing in itself, and then, boom, they hit you for 99 yards. They’ve got some kids that can burn back there with Piggee (and Price).”
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