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St. Mary’s wins third straight D-3 title with thrilling win over Muskegon

By: Jeff Dullack, November 27, 2016, 12:00 am

Detroit – Caden Prieskorn and Ky’ren Cunningham can both recall the days of playing youth football together from the age of six years old through eighth grade.

But the two players began their high school careers at different schools, Cunningham at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and Prieskorn at Lake Orion.

“I’ve been working with Caden since the first grade,” Cunningham said. “When he went to Lake Orion, I was disappointed.”

But in January of this year, Prieskorn transferred to St. Mary’s, stepped in as the starting quarterback and helped lead the Eaglets to the Division 3 state final against Muskegon. And on Saturday night, Prieskorn and Cunningham teamed up for a play that won’t soon be forgotten.

With just 10 seconds left on the clock, the ball sitting at the Muskegon 18-yard line and St. Mary’s trailing 28-23, Prieskorn threw the ball into the end zone as Cunningham ran between two defenders and under the ball with just four seconds left to play, giving the Eaglets a 29-28 win on Saturday night for the program’s third straight Division 3 state championship and eighth title overall.

Prieskorn said that having played with Cunningham through youth football, as well as throughout this year, he trusted that the junior would come through with a clutch play.

“I knew it was going to be one on one with Kyren,” he said. “I’ve played with Kyren since I was a little kid and I knew he was going to make a play. All I had to do was get it over there and I did and he caught it.”

Cunningham, still in shock after the game, said he had dreamt about a moment like his touchdown on Friday, but still couldn’t believe what had taken place.

“My body’s in shock, I don’t remember the catch,” said Cunningham, who admitted that he asked receiver Clay Antishin to switch with him on where they lined up before the play.

“I’ve dreamed about this, but if I were to go to sleep and wake up and you told me I made the catch in the state championship game, I wouldn’t believe you.”

After St. Mary’s took the lead, 23-21, on an MHSAA Finals record 49-yard field goal by Ben Fee with 4:47 left to play, Muskegon responded with what looked like a game-winning drive of its own.

Following a kick return to the 50-yard line by Clinton Jefferson Jr., junior quarterback La’darius Jefferson marched the Big Reds down the field in under three minutes, as Jefferson capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to give Muskegon a 28-23 lead.

“He’s a heck of a football player, he’s a true champion, a true warrior,” Muskegon head coach Shane Fairfield said of his quarterback. “He’s one of the reasons why we’re here, we won 12 games, we played for a state championship again and we’re not going to apologize for losing.”

Trailing 14-13 coming out of halftime, St. Mary’s scored on the opening drive of the second half as Prieskorn scored on a quarterback sneak to put the Eaglets on top, 20-14, with 6:15 left to play in the third quarter.

Prieskorn completed 13-of-21 passes for 200 yards and three total touchdowns on the night.

St. Mary’s quarterback George Porritt said that since arriving, Prieskorn has continued to improve and has been a good leader for the team on offense as well.

“He’s a great player and he’s gotten better each week,” he said. “He hangs in there and he’s gotten tougher each week and he’s running the ball club too.”

Muskegon’s Kalil Pimpleton, a Mr. Football Award Finalist, scored two touchdowns on the day, including one to start the fourth quarter that gave the Big Reds a 28-23 lead.

Pimpleton did it all on Saturday night, finishing with 64 yards rushing on nine carries and also tallied 88 yards receiving and threw for 58 yards, completing 3-of-4 passes.

In the first half, Muskegon would jump out to a 14-3 lead after an 18-yard touchdown run by Pimpleton and a 4-yard run by Ladarius Jefferson, but St. Mary’s would use a 30-yard touchdown pass from Prieskorn to Antishin to cut the deficit down to 14-13 at halftime.

With the win, St. Mary’s became just the fifth team in MHSAA history to finish the regular season with a 5-4 record.

“It’s great,” Porritt said of his team’s win. “These seniors have been special for us. I’m just happy after the start that we had and battling and to be 5-4, I’m proud of the kids, we hung in there.”