Muskegon well-represented in finals again
Muskegon – There must be something in the water along the Lake Michigan shoreline that is responsible for the success of the football teams in this part of the state.
Three teams from Muskegon will play for state championships at Ford Field this weekend quite an accomplishment for a (Muskegon) county that has just 13 high schools.
Muskegon Catholic Central (13-0) will play Munising (12-1) for the Division 8 title on Friday at 10 a.m. Muskegon Monas Shores (12-1) will play Warren De La Salle (10-3) for the Division 2 title on Friday at 1 p.m. and Muskegon High (12-1) will play Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (11-2) for the Division 7 title on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
It’s not unprecedented. In 2008 four teams (Montague, Muskegon, Muskegon C.C. and Muskegon Oakridge) from Muskegon County made it to the finals. People in this area proudly proclaimed these teams as the “four on the shore”.
This year there are the old standbys, Muskegon and Muskegon C.C., schools that have a rich football tradition, and then there’s Mona Shores, which made the playoffs for the first time last season and won its first playoff game this season.
Ron Pesch is the historian for high school sports in Michigan and knows more than just a few facts about Muskegon area football. He lives in North Muskegon and plans to attend, once again, all eight title games this weekend in downtown Detroit.
It’s not surprising that Muskegon and Muskegon C.C. are in the finals. Both programs have made the trip often. Mona Shores’ recent success is a shocker. The school has had success in other sports but not football.
“It’s mind-boggling,” Pesch said. “The running statement has been, the challenge at Mona Shores is to get more than just good hockey players there.”
Justin Abdelkader of the Detroit Red Wings is a Mona Shores graduate and the school won the Division 2 hockey title in 2000 and was runner-up in ’04, ’07 and ’09.
The school has won four boys golf titles (Class A in 1989, ’91, and Division 1 in 2000 and ’05).
But football? Not so much. Since ’97 Mona Shores had one winning season until last season. Much of the credit goes to coach Matt Koziak, a Mona Shores graduate, who coached at Muskegon before returning to his alma mater.
What’s remarkable about the success of the three teams is that they are located within a four square mile radius.
“The town is very excited,” Pesch said. “You think about the population size. It’s like two percent of the state’s (population).”
We’ll take your word for it, Ron. What is certain is the traffic heading west on I-96 on Friday morning will be heavy.
Picks: Muskegon C.C. by 22; De La Salle by 7; Muskegon by 2.
Clarkston (13-0) vs. Saline (12-1), Sat., 1: Having won 26 straight including last year’s title game is a huge advantage for Clarkston. But the Wolves will have to score often to keep up with Saline’s offense, which is averaging over 35 points in the playoffs. PICK: Clarkston by 7.
Grand Rapids South Christian (11-2) vs. Lansing Sexton (13-0), Fri., 7:30: A team from Lansing hasn’t won a state title since Lansing Catholic Central won the Class C title in 1985. Sexton’s team speed could be the difference. PICK: Sexton by 4.
Grand Rapids West Catholic (13-0) vs. Lansing Catholic Central (13-0), Sat., 4:30: West Catholic has won 22 straight including a 38-20 victory over Lansing C.C. in a district final last season. The quarterbacks (Travis Russell of West Catholic, Tony Poljan of C.C.) should be fun to watch in this one. PICK: West Catholic by 9.
Ithaca (13-0) vs. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (12-1), Fri., 4:30: Ithaca’s 69-game winning streak in in serious jeopardy. St. Mary C.C. lost to Lansing C.C. during the regular season and has played the better competition this season. PICK: St. Mary C.C. by 6.
Detroit Loyola (13-0) vs. Ishpeming (12-0), Sat., 10 a.m.: Act III. Ishpeming upset Loyola the last two seasons in the title game. To do it a third time is a little too much to ask. PICK: Loyola by 12.
Last week’s record: 12-4.
Season’s record: 109-59.