By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal

I remember covering the Reeths-Puffer-Mona Shores football game a few years ago for a different news service.

It was pretty painful to watch.

Gunn-column-logo-1It was the last game of the season and it was very cold. There were relatively few fans in the bleachers, which made it seem even colder. And both teams, being equally awful, were just hoping to grab a rare victory before hanging up the pads.

I don’t remember who won. Did it really matter?

The important thing is that Reeths-Puffer football is back. And Mona Shores is in the playoffs for the first time ever.

That means all three of Muskegon County’s biggest high schools will be part of the state playoffs. And that means thousands of more fans will be watching and cheering in the coming weeks.

It’s going to be exciting.

What’s even more exciting is that Muskegon, Reeths-Puffer and Mona Shores will be in the same bracket in the first round of the playoffs.

Muskegon and R-P will clash in a rematch of last week’s O-K Black Conference showdown, which the Big Reds won 20-7. Mona Shores will visit Lowell in the other bracket in Region 1.

The winners will meet in the regional final. Game dates and times will be announced by the Michigan High School Athletic Association Monday.

Muskegon County has always been a hotbed for local prep football talent. Most seasons we can count on getting at least one team to Ford Field.

Remember 2008, when Muskegon, Muskegon Catholic, Oakridge and Montague all won state titles?

But in recent years it’s mostly been Muskegon and our smaller schools claiming the glory. And those teams have done a great job of keeping our area on the map.

Muskegon has the winningest football program in state history. Muskegon Catholic is one tough little independent program that’s never backed down from anyone. And the West Michigan Conference is without a doubt the best small school football conference in the state.

But there has been something missing every fall with Reeths-Puffer and Mona Shores – two big schools with all kinds of talent – sitting on the sidelines at playoff time.

But both teams are for real this season.

I watched Reeths-Puffer play Muskegon on Friday. While the Big Reds are still the undisputed champions of the county – with the explosive Deshaun Thrower at quarterback – the Rockets demonstrated, without a doubt, they can play with their crosstown rivals.

Reeths-Puffer features a huge line that can blow opponents off the ball, and three talented running backs in Dereko Riley, Julian Munday and Corey Plichta.

I’m expecting the Muskegon-R-P rematch to be a whale of a game.

I was at Mona Shores when thousands of fans stormed the field after their victory over Zeeland East and clinched the school’s first playoff appearance.

Mona Shores is every bit as impressive as Reeths-Puffer, in a different way. While the Rockets will run the ball down your throat, the Sailors feature a big play aerial attack that can strike in a deadly instant.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better quarterback/wide receiver combination at the high school level than Tyree Jackson and Asantay Brown.

So there’ no telling what local teams might make a serious run this year. It will be great having a few more competitors in the mix, particularly from two of our biggest high schools.

Let the postseason games begin!