By Mike Mattson
Local Sports Journal
Mona Shores proved its solid start to the 2012 football season was no fluke Friday night.
The Sailors gave Muskegon all it could handle before falling 34-14 before 6,500 fans at Hackley Stadium.
Muskegon (6-0, 2-0) entered the game as the top-ranked team in Division 2 and left impressed with the upstart Sailors (4-2, 1-1).
“Definitely, I was impressed with Mona Shores,” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said after the OK Black contest. “Their defense was stellar. (Defensive coordinator) Todd Conrad had a great plan.”
Muskegon led 12-7 at halftime and didn’t take control of the game until the fourth quarter.
“We came out a little lackadaisical and they came here to play,” Muskegon defensive end Ronald Jenkins said. “We had to step up in the second half and put more pressure on them.”
The turning point came after the Sailors drove to Muskegon’s 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter. But a penalty backed the Sailors up and the Big Reds’ defense came up with a key stop.
“In the huddle we said we had to come out and hit them in the mouth before they hit us in the mouth,” Jenkins said. “We had to fight like real men. Whenever we are down, we are able to step up to the challenge.”
“If we score there and kick the extra point we go up one and who knows what happens from there,” Shores coach Matt Koziak said. “For three quarters we were right there.”
Instead, the Big Reds got the momentum back and scored two key touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull away.
The first was a gadget play –Marcus Smith threw a 75-yard halfback TD pass to Sherman Hodges. The second score was a 1-yard TD run by John King that capped the scoring at the 1:10 mark.
Muskegon totaled 423 rushing yards on 54 attempts. King led the way with 151 yards on 17 carries, followed by quarterback Jalen Smith with 149 yards on 26 carries.
Muskegon got off to a strong start as Javontae Langston raced 43 yards for a TD on its first possession. Langston also scored on a 33-yard run in the second quarter.
Gage Veltman’s fumble recovery set up Shores’ first score, a 14-yard TD pass from Tyree Jackson to Logan Smith.
The play-of-the-game for Shores came right away in the third quarter when Jackson hit Asantay Brown on a slant pass and he raced untouched for a 96-yard scoring play that put the Sailors up 14-12.
Muskegon answered with an impressive 80-yard scoring drive, capped by Jalen Smith’s 11-yard TD run that helped put the Big Reds ahead 20-14.
Shores had trouble running the ball against Muskegon’s defense and finished with 35 yards on 23 attempts. Sophomore DeOntay Moffett led the way with 14 carries for 21 yards while filling in for Darnell Longmire, who injured an ankle last week and left in the first quarter.
Jackson completed 8-of-21 passes 135 yards.
Shores faces a big test next week when Kenowa Hills visits Sailor Stadium. The Sailors will be looking to secure their fifth victory with Zeeland East and Reeths-Puffer filling out the remaining schedule in their quest to make the playoffs.
“We have to finish,” Koziak said. “We have to get two of the next three to reach our goals.”
Muskegon, meanwhile, will host Grand Rapids Union and hopes to continue its unbeaten season.
“We’re 6-0 and now that pressure is off,” Fairfield said. “We can now concentrate on the little things and get healthy.”
Added Jenkins: “Going 14-0, that is what will motivate us. We’re going for a state title.”