By Cory Sander
Special to the Local Sports Journal
As Matt Koziak, the head football coach at Mona Shores, was leaving Joe Chan’s Bistro Sunday night after the team’s “Watch Party,” athletic director Ryan Portenga handed him a complimentary fortune cookie.
Koziak opened it, read the fortune, looked up, and smirked as he slid it in his pocket.
The fortune cookie read, “Opportunities lie beyond like new frontiers… It’s time to travel.”
On Friday, the Sailors will travel to Lowell as Shores makes its first-ever playoff appearance against the Red Arrows at 7 p.m.
Lowell secured the top seed in the Division 2 district, which also has the Big Reds of Muskegon and the Rockets of Reeths-Puffer playing each other, by going a perfect 9-0 in regular-season play.
“We were thinking we would get Lowell,” said Koziak, who is in his third season as coach. “We couldn’t be more excited. It’ll be an awesome test to see where we really are as a team.”
This is Koziak’s first time facing Lowell as a Sailor.
He coached against them three times during his tenure as a coach at Muskegon before moving over to Shores, once as their head coach and twice as assistant.
“I am familiar with them. I’ve seen how they play a couple times now first hand,” Koziak said. “This is not my first time preparing for Lowell.”
Koziak said preparing for Lowell will be no different than how Shores has prepared for any team during the season. The only change will be the temperature, which is expected to be a little colder than the previous nine weeks.
“(This playoff game against Lowell) is just another game we have to prepare for,” senior wide receiver Logan Smith said. “Every team from here on out will be great, so we might as well get the best done first.”
Koziak brought up some JV players last week to bolster the team roster. He said this will bring more depth to the roster and get more things accomplished each day during practice having more bodies.
“Each day this week leading up to Friday has been crucial,” senior cornerback Matt Rose said. “We had to maintain focus and get better every day.”
Lowell plays mainly man-to-man coverage on defense which could be a favorable matchup to the high-powered, fast, Sailor offense.
“We have weapons that can hurt Lowell’s man-to-man defense,” Koziak said. “They play aggressive, and I think that we can use that and make big plays.”
The Sailor defense will have to come up big against a Lowell offense that averages 44 points a game. Their quarterback, Kyler Shurlow, is known to make plays with both his arm and his legs.
“We have to be tough up front on the line,” Koziak said. “They’ve got a great quarterback, so we have to create long situations for him. The key to this game is to stop them offensively and put our offense in good situations.”
Anchoring the Sailor defense at linebacker is one of the captains, senior Jake Workman, who cannot wait for kickoff.
“I could not be more excited to play Lowell. I think we can come out in the first round and make a statement by beating them. Everyone just has to be focused and know their individual jobs,” Workman said. “When we do this, we are a tough team to beat.”
Cory Sander is the sports editor for The Sailors’ Log, the school newspaper at Mona Shores High School.