Holding the Rams to just 107 total yards, while scoring 45 unanswered points, the Big Reds make huge statement
By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – It might have been the high school football game of the week in the state of Michigan, but from the looks of it, the Rockford Rams weren’t playing the same game as Muskegon.
The Muskegon Big Reds dominated in nearly every way possible Friday night, absolutely dismantling the Rams 45-0.
But, if anything, Friday’s contest was a coming-out party of sorts for senior Big Red quarterback Deshaun Thrower, who, if it is possible, proved to be just as dangerous with his legs as he has been over the first two weeks of the season through the air.
“I didn’t think it was going to turn out like this,” said Thrower. “(Rockford is) a great team. We just knew that if we came out and executed, coach said we would have a running clock, and that’s what we did.”
Thrower accounted for three scores, including two on the ground, piling up a game-high 218 rushing yards to along with 5-for-9 passing for 49 yards.
Muskegon head coach Shane Fairfield said Thrower sat down this week with offensive coordinator Brent White and studied film, and that was key to the senior QB’s sudden scrambling success.
“He’s starting to see it, he’s starting to get comfortable with it,” Fairfield said of Thrower. “This is a pocket-passer kid who we put into the triple option offense. I’ll tell you what, there’s nothing more scaring than when he gets some confidence, puts his foot into the ground and gets vertical. The first two games, he wanted to run outside or where he’s used to running. Playing the option, you have to be able to cut and get vertical. He’s realizing that ‘If I go vertical, I don’t get hit as much.”
Then he added matter-of-factly, “That 200-pound kid with confidence is good for us.”
Oh, and the Big Red defense wasn’t all that bad as well, holding the Rams to just 107 total yards, including just 67 on the ground. Rockford ran just 39 plays.
After a brief period at the start of the contest when both teams were feeling each other out, Muskegon turned on the jets, scoring five out of the next six times the Big Reds had the ball, turning the game – which many viewed as one of the best in the Midwest – into a blowout halfway through the third quarter.
Big Red kicker Adrian Briseno got Muskegon on the board with a 36-yard field goal early in the second quarter, but after that Briseno would only be needed to kick extra-points.
A lot of extra points.
Mid-way through the second, Thrower set up his team in the red zone with a 49-yard scamper, and then Fairfield dipped into his back of tricks. Facing third-and-18, Thrower pitched the ball to slot receiver John Hall, who proceeded to launch it 37 yards to teammate Joeviair Kennedy for the score.
Following a Ram fumble on the team’s subsequent possession, giving the Big Reds the ball on the Rockford 25, Thrower capped a four-play drive with a 13-yard pass to Justin Foster to make it 17-0, where it stayed through the half-time break.
But things were just starting to get interesting.
On the first play of the second half, Thrower ran right and then took it up field 45 yards to give the Big Reds first down on the Ram 25. Three plays later Thrower ran a keeper off tackle and then nine yards for the score, trampling a Rockford defender in the process and making it 24-0.
Thrower again called his own number on Muskegon’s next drive, capping a three play, 59-yard drive with a 40 yard TD run.
Javauntae Thomas made it 38-0 with a five-yard blast on the Big Reds’ next possession, launching a running clock.
Back up QB Shawn Pfenning capped the scoring with a five-yard TD run with two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game to provide the final result.
Thrower said, contrary to last week’s game versus Grand Rapids Christian – where the Big Reds were shutout in the first half before exploding for 35 second-half points in the 22-point victory – this week the team wanted to come out and draw first blood.
“Last week, we came out slow,” he said. “This week we came out fast and prepared. We knew they couldn’t stop what we had if we executed the way we know we can. We didn’t have that many turnovers, shut down on defense, and executed on offense. This so far was the best game we’ve had.”
For Fairfield, the fact that the Big Reds so thoroughly physically dominated the Rams was a credit to his squad’s hard work.
“I think our kids can match anyone,” the coach said. “It’s nothing that I do. It’s what they do. Our kids accept every single workout, from the tires, to the sleds, to the weight vests. Everything we do, they challenge themselves. So they deserved the outcome tonight.”
Adding to Thrower’s outstanding performance, senior John Hall had four rushes for 67 yards (and the aforementioned TD throw), while Pfenning had 58 yards on seven rushes and a score. Thomas added 35 rushing yards on 12 carries.
Kennedy finished with two catches for 38 yards and a score, with Hall adding two catches for 22 yards.
Defensively, William Hunt led the Big Reds with 14 tackles, with Taran Smith finishing with 11 stops, and Hall adding six tackles in the win.
Tyler Bradfield and Brett Showers led Rockford with eight tackles apiece.