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Inspired Mona Shores puts on ‘Sailor Salute’ clinic vs. Zeeland West

Sailors dominate offensively and defensively in fifth-annual event that honors active military, veterans and first responders.

Matt Koziak delivered a rousing pregame speech to his Mona Shores football team Friday on “Sailor Salute” night.

He spoke of his grandfather, who at 17 years old, fought for his country. He talked about foot soldiers defending the U.S. and urged his players to remember those who sacrificed.

The pep talk must have worked: The Sailors dominated visiting a good Zeeland West team, 47-12, on a patriotic night at Sailor Stadium, where active military, veterans and first responders were honored in the annual event.

In the Sailors’ home opener and stands that were packed for the first time since the 2019 season, senior quarterback Mark Konecny rushed for three touchdowns and passed for two more as Mona Shores improved to 3-1 on the season and 2-0 in the OK Green Conference.

“(The crowd was) awesome. It was packed on our side from side to side, up/down. It was red, white and blue everywhere,” Koziak said. “Our kids haven’t had a game like this since 2019, you know. We played three away games to start the season, so they really came out and supported those kids and obviously the cause. But our kids needed that. They drew energy from it. It was excited for them that they got to play in front of a crowd like that. It was electric — our crowd was awesome.”

Konecny finished 11-of-15 passing for 166 yards and no interceptions. He hit junior CJ Ivy on a 35-yard TD strike and junior Jaylen Vinton on a 23-yard score. Konecny ran for TDs covering 3, 8 and 8 yards, and he totaled 54 yards on six attempts.

Mona Shores senior Elijah Johnson gained a team-high 108 yards on seven carries with a 49-yard TD run.

Sailors senior DJ Caviness recorded a team-high 10 tackles against Zeeland West’s wing-T offense. Seniors Jeff Lenartowicz and Stevek Koziak added seven stops each.

Mona Shores built a 27-12 halftime lead and broke it open in the third with three more TDs.

Skyler Geurink scored both TDs for the Dux (2-2, 0-2), one on a 76-yard run and the other from 1 yard. He piled up a game-high 182 yards on 19 carries, with runs of 76 and 51 yards making up the bulk of his total.

“I thought our defense was really, really good up front. Our front seven, I really believe they wore them out,” Koziak said. “They had six guys go both ways and we didn’t. We did that on purpose where we subbed primarily on offense up front. Two of our offensive line guys were not typical starters because we wanted them to play defense — that’s Kemper (Millis) and Luke Emmons, they’re 300-pound kids and they were basically our defensive tackles against them.”

It was the second-straight loss for Zeeland West, which fell at home to Muskegon last week, 28-20.

“(Honoring veterans, military and first responders) has always been a big deal to me. I don’t want to use the word overlooked — I think people do appreciate our military — but just to really point out the sacrifices that they have made. I mean, your life is the ultimate sacrifice, right? Same with first responders and firefighters and police officers,” Koziak said.

“They’re willing to lay down their lives for strangers and I don’t know of a more noble cause than that where you don’t even know a person but the military defending people they don’t know, firefighters going into a home that they have no idea who lives there, first responders, police officers. They’re willing to put (their lives on the line) for strangers. Without people like that, how would we ever be able to play a football game on Friday night? The least we can do is one night honor them and try to make a big deal out of how important they are to us.”

Check out the “Sailor Salute” highlight video, including Koziak’s speech, produced by Mike Meekhof of M7 Sports:

Note: Thanks to Lenny Padilla for his images accompanying this story.

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Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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