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On the Mark: My dad being in the picks mix for state finals weekend is only fitting

The DeCamps’ tradition of heading to the state finals began with the Muskegon Big Reds’ title in 1986.

Thirty-seven years ago, my father brought me to the Michigan High School Athletic Association state football finals for the first time.

The memories of that day are still quite vivid. The Muskegon Big Reds and their “Smurfs” on the defensive line cut down Sterling Heights Stevenson in a 10-0 victory for the 1986 Class A state championship at the Pontiac Silverdome. That was Muskegon’s first state title during the MHSAA playoff era, which began in 1975.

Decades later, traditions continue. The Big Reds have been state finals regulars and so have the DeCamps. Rarely have we — father Gary DeCamp and his sons, Scott and Tom DeCamp — missed a state finals weekend, be it at the former Silverdome home or the current site known as Ford Field.

Traditions are being passed along. My nephews, Zeppi Jobse and Brayden DeCamp, are joining us in our trip to Detroit this weekend.

In this file photo, Gary DeCamp joined son Scott DeCamp at Whitehall’s 54-26 season-opening football victory over Hudsonville Unity Christian on Aug. 25, 2022, in Jenison, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

It’s all about time spent together, the memories created, and the football.

When I settled into my career as a sports reporter at MLive and now for CatchMark SportsNet, these Thanksgiving weekend excursions turned partially into business trips. This Saturday, I’ll be covering the Division 8 final at 10 a.m. and Division 6 final at 4:30 p.m. for the MHSAA.

I’m also planning to provide updates and coverage for CatchMark of the day’s grand finale between Muskegon and Warren De La Salle in the Division 2 final at 7:30 p.m. (More about that matchup below.)

Whether I’m at the state finals for work or pleasure, it’s always enjoyable. It’s a weekend the DeCamps look forward to every year.

As a tribute to the man who inspired this sports passion of mine, I’ve invited my father to be the guest picker for the “On the Mark” 2023 state finals edition. He knows his high school football, so he’ll give me a run for my money. May the better DeCamp win!

Last week’s guest picker was Paul Young, parent of North Muskegon student-athletes and a CatchMark SportsNut volunteer for CatchMark SportsNet. He finished 1-1 in his picks. His son’s North Muskegon team fell to a tough Menominee squad in the Division 7 semifinals, while his alma mater Muskegon rolled past East Lansing in the Division 2 semis.

Thanks for reading “On the Mark” all season. Wishing a happy and safe Thanksgiving weekend to all!

Here are Week 14 picks for the 2023 state finals:


DIVISION 2: Muskegon (11-2) vs. Warren De La Salle (11-2), 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Ford Field: This is a rematch of a Week 2 track meet at Hackley Stadium, where De La Salle pulled away for a 40-28 victory over Muskegon.

This is also a showdown of head coaches who are both natives of Muskegon: The Big Reds’ Shane Fairfield (Muskegon Catholic Central alumnus) and the Pilots’ Dan Rohn (Orchard View alum).

Muskegon is seeking its first state title since 2017, when the Big Reds captured the Division 3 championship. De La Salle is going for a third straight Division 2 title. The Pilots won in blowout fashion each of the last two years.

Fairfield and Rohn are leaders, who thrive in developing young people into young men, and the city of Muskegon should be extremely proud of both.

When I covered Mona Shores’ hard-fought 25-19 win over De La Salle in the Division 2 finals during the COVID year of 2020, it was clear that Rohn was about to put his stamp on an already proud program. He was about to take the Pilots to new heights. He’s certainly doing that.

At Muskegon, Fairfield has continued a tradition of excellence with the Big Reds program. Beyond football, he’s a mentor for his players and a father figure for those who might need that presence in their lives.

State finals wins have been harder to come by for Fairfield, but with the senior leadership and hunger exhibited by the big three (M’Khi Guy, Destin Piggee, and Jakob Price) and the leader up front (Miguel Botello), something tells me it’s the Big Reds’ time.

Prediction: Muskegon 34, Warren De La Salle 28

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

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