Muskegon whips Harper Creek, 42-0, gets another shot a Division 3 title
Kentwood - It may be time to consider where the current Muskegon football team ranks in the program's storied tradition. Even though there is still a game to play and everyone was saying the right thing afterward about a job not yet done.
But the best guess would be near the top after the Big Reds continued a remarkable season by rolling over Battle Creek Harper Creek 42-0 in Saturday's soggy Division 3 semifinal at East Kentwood.
The Big Reds easily won their 13th straight game as they scored on their first offensive play, saw quarterback La'darius Jefferson run for four touchdowns and earned a running clock by the 10:15 mark of the third quarter.
It was more than enough to send Muskegon, winners of 25 of its last 26 games against Michigan schools, into next Saturday's 7:30 p.m. state championship game against Farmington Hills Harrison.
As impressive as the win was, the players and coach Shane Fairfield were careful to point out there is still much to do before the team can be called one of the school's best ever.
"There was the 2004 (state championship team) and there were other good teams in the ‘90s," said Jefferson, who de-committed from Central Florida and received a scholarship offer from Michigan State recently. "I think this is a top group, but we've got one game to play. We're like a brotherhood and we're determined to win a state championship."
Jefferson scored on runs of two, 14, 17 and 38, the latter coming with 3:20 left in the third quarter to complete the scoring. He finished with 142 rushing yards. Lonnie Clark Jr. added a 44-yard touchdown run on the team's first play and Clinton Jefferson caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from Jefferson for the other score.
Despite a long statistical resume which would leave many considering Muskegon as the top team in the state regardless of division, Fairfield is wary of offering any definitive answer where this team lands in discussing it as one of the best in school history.
"The offense is good and the defense is a little better this year. You could say it's one of our top years," Fairfield said. "You'd be a fool not to. But we still have work to do.
"Last week and today were two of our better games. The kids believe they are playing their best football right now. We don't want a pity party and the kids have been to Ford Field. But football is all some of them have. We embrace one another."
Muskegon is now 21-6 in the playoffs since 2012. Offensively, the team has racked up 694 points, breaking last year's school-record mark of 681. With Saturday's shutout, the defense has now given up a touchdown or less in 10 games, including seven shutouts.
They led once-beaten Dewitt 35-0 at the half in the regional final, and gave up 35 rushing yards to Harper Creek (12-1), which had been averaging 30 points per game. Muskegon's closest game this season is a 35-24 win over Muskegon Mona Shores.
Senior defensive end Eli Jackson said the team is motivated by last year's 29-28 loss to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s when the Big Reds gave up a touchdown pass in the waning seconds.
"That touchdown has been in our heads the last year," he said. "We want to be champions, that's what we think about. We want to make history. All year we've thought about that last 10 seconds against St. Mary's."