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Muskegon trails 6-0, then scores 28 straight and goes on to defeat Zeeland West, 55-20, in a district final

By: Tom Markowski, November 3, 2017, 10:10 pm

Grand Haven – Maybe Zeeland West just made Muskegon angry.

Whatever the reason, Muskegon scored the final 28 points of the first half to take a 28-6 lead and the Big Reds ran past West, 55-20, in a Division 3 district final at Grand Haven on Friday.

Muskegon (11-0), ranked No. 1 in State Champs’ Top 25, will DeWitt (10-1) next Friday in a region final. 

The game might be played at Muskegon’s Hackley Stadium or at Grand Haven. Hackley has a grass field and it depends on the condition of the field. Grand Haven has a turf field.

West (7-4) took the first possession and went 65 yards in four plays to take a 6-0 lead. Sophomore fullback Chase Peddie broke loose for a 49-yard touchdown run to stun Muskegon and its fans.

The score had little effect on the Big Reds offensively. On the next series, on fourth-and-11, La’darius Jefferson threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Deandre Carter with 7:05 left in the first quarter to give Muskegon a 7-6 lead.

Jefferson and the Big Reds were near flawless in the first 24 minutes. One of the few mistakes they made came on their next series but even a 10-yard holding penalty mattered little. A 3-yard touchdown run by Lonnie Clark, Jr., increased Muskegon’s lead to 14-6.

Muskegon stopped West on downs on the Big Reds’ 43-yard line and three plays later Jefferson ran 17 yards for a touchdown. His 34-yard run helped set up the score.

The Big Reds saved their best drive of the half for last as they went 87 yards in 10 plays with Jefferson’s 11-yard touchdown run ending the drive.

Four drives, four touchdowns. The Big Reds have a number of players with big-play capabilities.

“We saw that on film,” West coach John Shillito said. “That’s truly a great team. What we saw tonight was actually pretty similar to what we saw on film. We could see their size on film. It’s like, oh, my gosh. They’re definitely one of the top five teams I’ve coached against.”

Shillito first became a head coach in 1982.   

And his team played well at times against Muskegon. The Dux pulled to within 28-14 with 8:14 left in the third on a 3-yard touchdown run by Dimitri Maly.

But that was it for the Dux. Muskegon scored the next two touchdowns to, for the most part, put the game out of reach.

“What it comes down to, is physics,” Shillito said. “We had some chances. When we scored, we had them on fourth down. If we could have stopped them, I don’t know if it would have changed the score or not.

“That play to start the second half. We had that onside kick and their kid (Demetrius Harris) made a great play. We had a chance, he got rocked and held on to it.”

Jefferson was outstanding. The Big Reds run a one-back offense and Jefferson, a 6-2, 215-pound senior, is the main ball carrier. One of his favorite plays is the zone read.

Jefferson rushed for 240 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries. He has 23 rushing touchdowns this season. He was 2-of-4 passing for 37 yards and one touchdown. He owns the school record for touchdown passes in a season with 17.

“I like how we fought tonight,” he said. “They went up and then the momentum changed. I like how our defense answered. We just responded. It was an all-out team effort.

“I just have to be smart with the offense, with the triple option. I have a lot of weapons. They don’t know who’s going to get it.”

Clark had two touchdowns and Willie Shanks, Jr., returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown.

For West Hunter Anderson had a 58-yard touchdown run and Peddie rushed for 95 yards on 13 carries.

“You have to be hungry,” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said. “It’s not being in awe. That’s the downside of a district game, because we’ve had so much success. Their defense was very physical. I thought our defense handled their line. They went up 6-0 and we said before the game to stay back and not allow the big play. We made some adjustments. I thought our kids settled in. We came down and scored and scored again.”

The Big Reds are three wins away from a state title. The pressure mounts on every team as they advance.

Muskegon lost to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 29-28, in the state final last season. It’s something all of the players see every day.

“It’s posted in our locker room,” Jefferson said. “We think about it all the time.”