Martinez rushes for 293 yard and five TDs, Muskegon defeats DeLaSalle, 36-21, in the opener
Muskegon – Concerns about replacing quarterback La’Darius Jefferson, the Mr. Football winner in 2017, were quickly forgotten on Friday.
Junior Cameron Martinez, a transfer from Muskegon Catholic Central who led the Crusaders to the Division 8 title in 2016, was the best player on the field in the season opener at historic Hackley Stadium in Muskegon as the Big Reds ran past Warren DeLaSalle, 36-21.
The game matched the Division 2 champion, DeLaSalle, against the Division 3 champion.
“That’s why we do this,” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said. “The chance of losing this game, we know where we need to be. We like to play games that test our character.”
Martinez doesn’t possess the power running ability of Jefferson, who’s now at Michigan State. Martinez is a tad more elusive and might be just a bit faster than his predecessor.
Martinez rushed for 127 yards and three touchdowns in the first half as Muskegon took a 20-7 lead. Martinez scored on runs of three, 39 and 13 yards, the latter coming with 2:10 left in the half. He finished with 31 carries for 293 yards and he scored all five of his team’s touchdowns, the final one from 61 yards out with 1:40 left that finished the scoring.
“We’re still trying to find ourselves,” Martinez said. “It’s a new team. We just had to stay focused.
“They had a lot of success last year. It was a little (nerve-racking). I had a lot of emotions coming in. (Playing behind the offensive line), it’s like a college-pro line. They’re the real deal.”
Led by LSU-bound tackle Anthony Bradford, Muskegon’s offensive line is considered the state’s best. Four are seniors and four are returning starters.
“That guy (Martinez) is good,” DeLaSalle coach Mike Giannone said. “When he breaks it, he’s gone. He’s strong, too.
“We gave them a great battle. We hung in there. It was two good football teams going at it. We had a lot of new guys out there. I thought some of (the sloppy play) would happen. But we made too many mistakes.”
DeLaSalle committed eight penalties for 60 yards and a personal foul penalty on fourth down kept a Muskegon’s drive going that led to the Big Reds’ first touchdown.
Muskegon trailed 7-6 when Ali’Vonta Wallace intercepted giving the Big Reds possession on DeLaSalle’s 42-yard line. Three plays later Martinez ran 39 yards for a touchdown on a third-and-7 play.
The Pilots scored touchdowns on their first two possessions to open the second half to get within 23-21. Josh DeBerry caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Stepnitz (6-12, 118 yards) and Stepnitz scored on a 1-yard sneak to bring his team within two points with 8:02 left. Just over three minutes later Martinez ran 36 yards for a touchdown and Muskegon’s defense stopped the Pilots last-ditch effort on the Big Reds 34 with 2:10 left.
“The offensive line came through the way we thought,” Fairfield said. “I was pleased with the defense but 21 points is too much. I learned we’ve got guys we can play with.
“Any quarterback can excel with our offensive line. It’s the system. We’ve had other have success there. The best thing about Cameron is that he’s a great kid.”