For Fairfield and Jewett, the battle for OK Black title will come down to which team is toughest

By Mark Lewis

Local Sports Journal

MUSKEGON – This past August, who could have imagined heading into Week 9 of the 2013 high school football season that the Muskegon/Reeths-Puffer game would hold so much import?

While in years past the match up might have been one to skip, this year’s game is for all the marbles, as the winner will take an 8-1 record and an OK Black Conference championship into the playoffs. The loser will have to quickly nurse its wounds before heading into next weekend’s playoff opener.

For both coaches, if nothing else the game will be good for the community.

“I think it’s great,” said Muskegon head coach Shane Fairfield. “It’s great for both teams, it’s great for the communities, and it’s great for area high school football. Sure, there may be a little talking back and forth about it, but that’s what you expect when a conference title and area bragging rights go to the winner. It makes for a special game.”

“Lots of people have been telling us coaches, ‘This hasn’t happen since…,’ and ‘This will be the first time…,’ so there is a lot of buzz going on about us and them and this game,” said Reeths-Puffer head coach Kyle Jewett. “We know we are going to be counted out right off the bat, so it’s our job to remain focused on what we came to do.”

A week away from last Friday’s exciting 22-18 victory over Mona Shores, Reeths-Puffer, said Jewett, will need to bring its ‘A’ game if it hopes to stay with the explosive Big Reds.

“We expect it to be a physical game, for sure,” said Jewett. “We are going to need to have our offensive line rise to the challenge, and we hope to have our defense somehow contain them. They have a ton of different weapons. We have to limit those weapons as much as we can.”

Jewett said his defense will continue to use its ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ approach, beating the Big Reds commit an error before they can reach the end zone.

Stopping the Rockets, said Fairfield, will take more than just brute strength and speed; it’s going to take breaking Reeths-Puffer’s will.

“They’re playing so well right now, with a chance to win a conference title,” said Fairfield. “You can tell their kids really believe. It’s a hell of a formula; they believe in what they do and that can lead teams to play way beyond what they thought they were capable of. We’ll do our best to take that away from them.”

Fairfield said he expects the Rockets to try to spy his outstanding quarterback, senior Deshaun Thrower, somehow attempting to keep him in check, and not allow the Big Reds to hit that big home run the team always seconds from producing.

“They are going to sit back a little bit hoping we make a mistake,” said Fairfield. “We have to do our best to execute.”

Besides Thrower, senior slot receiver/running back John Hall, junior running back Caleb Washington, senior receiver Justin Foster and junior receiver Joeviair Kennedy have helped turn the Big Red offense from good to great in 2013.

Click here to read a feature on the Big Reds’ John Hall.

For the Rockets, the team’s ground-based offense, propelled by the legs of junior Dereko Riley and senior Julian Munday, is actually led by the squad’s offensive line, which Jewett calls ‘…the backbone of our team.” Jewett also pointed to the quiet poise of senior single caller Garrett Blanshine.

“Garrett is going to need to have another big game for us if we want to come away with a win,” said Jewett.

Click here to read a feature on the Rockets’ Garrett Blanshine.

Win or lose, Jewett is hoping his entire team comes to play.

“We’re going to need everyone,” he said. “We just hope the team comes focused and ready to play.”

For Fairfield, the regular season finale will prove to both schools which is the best able to take and give a blow.

“They’re going to hit us, and we are going to hit them,” said Fairfield, with a laugh. “At the end of it all, we’re going to see who is toughest. And that’s the way we like it.”