By Mike Mattson
Local Sports Journal
OK, I will ask the question that is on the minds of most Muskegon football fans:
“Is this the year of the Big Reds?”
It’s hard not to say so after No. 2 Muskegon rolled to a 36-21 victory against top-ranked Lowell Friday night before nearly 7,000 fans at Hackley Stadium.
Lowell has been a thorn in the side of the Big Reds with three playoff wins, but Muskegon relied on a solid game plan on both sides of the ball to turn the tables Friday night.
Year of the Big Reds?
“I believe so,” said senior center and captain Quincy Crosby after Muskegon notched its fourth straight impressive win. “We are going after that ring with a vengeance.”
Of course, it is way too early to discuss a state title for Muskegon.
What I do know is Muskegon has the offensive line, skill players, swarming defense, special teams and coaching to capture a Division 2 state crown.
Give Coach Shane Fairfield and his staff credit for having the Big Reds ready physically and mentally for Friday’s showdown.
Whenever Lowell (3-1) hit a big play, the Big Reds answered with a better one. That’s a sign of a state champion.
Friday’s win was a statement game for Muskegon, which faces a lighter schedule (on paper) the rest of the regular season. The Big Reds likely will clinch home field advantage in the playoffs after Friday’s win.
It’s safe to say this won’t be the last meeting between Lowell and Muskegon. Fairfield reminded his team of that almost certain fact after the game.
“You are going to see them again,” said Fairfield, whose team showed more composure than the Red Arrows. “You’ll see them right here (Hackley Stadium).”
Fairfield’s biggest job now is keeping the Big Reds hungry. He must not let his team take any steps backward.
Players like quarterback Jalen Smith and Crosby won’t let that happen.
“We can’t get complacent,” Crosby said. “We have to keep getting better because Lowell will get better.”
Smith, like Crosby, was all smiles after he did a solid job of running the Big Reds’ no-huddle veer attack.
“They beat us in the playoffs and ended our season for three years,” Smith said. “We finally got revenge. They finally came here and we beat them.”
Smith, like Crosby, said the Big Reds will stay focused and try to improve each week.
What’s motivating Smith?
“The playoffs,” he said. “We have to play every game like the first four games. We have to play every game like it’s our last.”
This Muskegon team reminds me a lot of the 2008 state-title squad. They both have outstanding senior leadership and a great work ethic.
The difference right now is the 2008 team took it the distance and the rings were ordered.
This group of Big Reds are capable of finishing the job, too.
They just have to play with the same passion of the last four weeks.
Year of the Big Reds?
Stay tuned. It just might happen.