Top games: Two of the state’s best, Muskegon and Mona Shores to play for OK Black title
Muskegon – Coach Shane Fairfield and his Big Reds did some soul searching on the bus ride home from Detroit Catholic Central following their 15-12, season-opening loss.
What they found was a team more determined than ever to prove they are one of the elite teams in the state.
“It helped us tremendously,” Fairfield said of the loss. “If you don’t do the little things right, you’ll lose.
“It’s about execution. They take what we say to heart. It showed them the importance of practice. It was a sense of urgency. That’s why you schedule tough teams.”
Muskegon has won six straight since and none have been close. The 39-12 victory over Grandville was the closest.
On Friday Muskegon will travel four miles to Muskegon Mona Shores to play the Sailors for the Ottawa Kent Conference Black Division title. Both teams are 3-0 in the division with two to play. Mona Shores (7-0) defeated Muskegon last year, 48-27.
Muskegon reached the Division 3 final last season before losing to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. Mona Shores made it to the Division 2 final before losing to Warren De La Salle.
“They’re very talented,” Fairfield said. “They have big-play capabilities. They’ll sling it on first down. They’ll sling it on third down. It’ll be fourth-and-two and they’ll throw it.
“On top of that 21 of the 22 positions are seniors.
“We’re having fun. We’re playing with confidence.”
Muskegon has tremendous depth on both sides of the line of scrimmage and despite a handful of changes due to injuries and illnesses .
Here’s just a few examples. Dylon Oplinger missed last week’s after being diagnosed with pneumonia and few noticed a drop off. He could return at left guard against Mona Shores. Kamari Johnson didn’t start the season at center but he’s filled in nicely there. Corion Ross started at left tackle last season as a junior but he lost the job to sophomore Antwan Reed, Jr. Reed is 6-7, weighs 285 pounds and he’s been offered a scholarship by Tennessee. Ross has found his way back into the lineup because of injuries.
In last week’s 54-14 victory over Muskegon Reeths-Puffer the Big Reds gave up a 70-yard touchdown run and that was it. Other than that Reeths-Puffer was stymied offensively. Its other touchdown came on a scoop and score.
Muskegon leads the series 27-6. Pick: Muskegon by 5.
All games are Friday at 7 p.m. unless noted.
Allen Park (6-1) at Lincoln Park (5-2): This longtime rivalry has even greater meaning this year. Lincoln Park, a program that owns the state’s longest streak (66 games), hasn’t made the playoffs since 2002 and hasn’t defeated Allen Park since 1969. These teams didn’t play from 1970-96. Pick: Allen Park by 13.
Dearborn Fordson (4-3) at Dearborn (4-3): Always a grudge match, this one has added significance with each team needing a victory to stay in the playoff hunt. Fordson leads the series 25-11 and won last year, 35-0. Dearborn won four of its last five and is primed for an upset victory. Pick: Dearborn by 2.
Detroit Catholic Central (5-2) vs. Warren De La Salle (6-1) at Wayne State: If C.C. wins it would create a three-way tie for first in the Central Division with Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and De La Salle. Its uncertain C.C. will be able to move the ball with any consistency against one of the state’s top defense. Pick: De La Salle by 9.
East Grand Rapids (5-2) at Lowell (6-1): This is bitter sweet game. These O-K White Division teams are two of the most successful, not only in the Grand Rapids area but statewide. After this season the seasonal rivalry will end as East Grand Rapids will leave the White, Lowell will remain. Enjoy it while you can. Pick: Lowell by 8.
Holt (5-2) at Jackson (5-2): Holt has dominated this series (27-6). Jackson defeated Holt 40-27 in 2013 ending a 12-game losing streak to the Rams. Jackson has a shot at winning seven games for the first time since 2000. Pick: Jackson by 1.
Hudsonville (6-1) at Grandville (4-3): Grandville has won its last two after losing three straight. Hudsonville struggled to get past Holland West Ottawa (2-5) last week, 35-32. Grandville made the playoffs last season but missed out the previous six. Grandville defeated Hudsonville last year, 22-7. Pick: Grandville by 4.
Salem (3-4) at Livonia Franklin (4-3): It might not seem like a big game to some but Franklin has won its last two and a victory here will place the Patriots a win away from the playoffs. Franklin hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010 and the Patriots play Royal Oak (4-3) in two weeks. Pick: Franklin by 6.
Sterling Heights Stevenson (6-1) at Macomb Dakota (5-2): The MAC Red Division title is on the line here. A number of great games have been played between these teams since Stevenson whipped the Cougars, 28-0, in 2001. They met in the ’04 Division 1 semifinals with Stevenson claiming a 42-18 victory and Stevenson won last year, 19-12. In its six victories this season Stevenson has given up just 33 points. Pick: Dakota by 4.
U-D Jesuit (4-3) vs. Birmingham Brother Rice (1-6) at Berkley, 1: U-D hasn’t defeated a team from its division, the Catholic League Central, since 2006. That could end here as Brother Rice has struggled with a young and inexperienced team. Pick: U-D by 4.
Last week’s record: 6-4.
Season record: 49-21.