By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
While it certainly is strange to watch a football game in June, Saturday’s second annual Muskegon All-Star Classic – which splits up and then pits some of the area’s best graduating high school football players against one another – no doubt measured up against the regular-season’s best games.
And though it looked at first as though the offenses of both squads – that is, Team Legend (which featured Muskegon QB Jalen Smith and coached by Big Red Head Coach Shane Fairfield) and Team Dynasty (featuring Montague’s Brandon Moore, who is headed to Ferris State this fall, and coached by former Mona Shores Head Coach Ken Rose) – would dominate the contest, it was in fact the Legend’s defense which provided the go-ahead score and two impressive goal line stands to seal the 14-10 victory.
“It was fun and exciting,” said Team Legend Coach Fairfield. “It came down to defense. A goal line stand down here and then one down there and then a pick-six. (It showed) great character. Their toughness right there showed the way they prepared all week.”
Things started with a bang for Team Dynasty as Muskegon graduate Demetrius Brown, who will be playing for Olivet in the fall, took the game’s first handoff around right end and 60 yards for the score. Teammate Andrew Dent from Grant kicked home the extra point to make it 7-0 with just 12 seconds having elapsed in the game.
And while the Dynasty’s score was a lesson in quick-strike efficiency, Team Legend answered with a 14 play, 80-yard drive that chewed up over six minutes and tied the contest at 7-all, off a two-yard plunge by Muskegon’s John King, who’s headed to Adrian.
Surprisingly, that’s where the score would stay for the next 30 minutes of clock. In the intervening time, Team Legend dominated the stats, driving down to Dynasty’s 14 on its third drive, only to surrender possession because of a fumble, while Team Dynasty fumbled, punted or failed to convert, after its opening score, on its next six possessions.
Yet, following a Team Legend punt to open the second half, Team Dynasty strung together an 18-play drive the used over eight minutes and found the Dynasty squad on the opposition’s five. The Legend’s defense forced a fourth-and-goal on the 17, however, as a result of a four-yard tackle-for-loss, a sack of Fruitport quarterback Tyler Fehler and an incomplete pass, forcing Dent’s successful 34-yard field goal attempt to make it 10-7.
Team Legend looked as though it had run out of lives after failing to capitalize on an mid-fourth quarter interception by Shelby’s Ben Schroeder that give the Legends possession near midfield. But, following the Legend’s subsequent punt, Montague’s Dylan Lohman picked off Fehler for the second time in the game, this time returning it 30 yards for the score to put Team Legend up 14-10.
“We were doing cover three, trying to stay back,” said Lohman, who won the game’s Media Explosion Award for his game-winning score. “I saw the ball come off and I planted my foot and tried to take off. There’s not much more to it than that.”
Ironically, Lohman wound up nabbing the pick while covering former Montague teammate Moore.
“All week I was thinking about how weird it would be (to cover Moore),” said Lohman. “We grew up together, always together.”
Lohman said the only other time he has covered Moore was when the cornerback was on the scout defense. Moore and Lohman could again end up on the same team, as Lohman attempts to walk onto Ferris State’s football team in the fall.
With 2:53 remaining, Team Dynasty looked as though it might just put together the game-winning drive. Taking over on the Dynasty’s 41, Fehler worked his team down the field, connecting with Moore and Muskegon’s Marcus Smith on the drive, the latter reaching the Legend one yard line before Smith was stopped. An illegal motion penalty give Dynasty first-and-goal from the six with 30 seconds left, but the Legend defense again stiffened, forcing four consecutive incompletions and sealing the win.
For Fairfield, the whole week leading up to the game was as rewarding as the game itself.
“I had a couple kids come up and complement our program,” said Fairfield, “our kids and our coaching staff. It’s good to hear because we are always so focused and in tune with what we do that we really don’t know if we’re doing what we should be doing, if we’re reaching kids the right way. For them to give us those kinds of compliments all week, that they loved playing for us, that they learned something, that’s all we want them to do, to learn a little bit more about high school football.”
The All-Star Classic football game is an annual event presented by the WV Foundation, which awards players and cheerleaders over $10,000 worth of scholarships based on a number of criteria, including academics, athletics, community service, leadership, and overcoming hardships.