By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal
The Muskegon Big Reds punched their ticket to the playoffs on Friday night with a 40-0 knockout of Kenowa Hills on Friday night.
The victory earns the Big Reds (6-1) an automatic berth into the playoffs.
“We wanted to make sure we got in there,” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said. “That takes a lot of pressure off. You always put so much pressure on yourself to be 9-0, six wins, conference champions, district champions, regional champions and then state champions. This is one less thing we have to worry about.”
There was little worry for the Big Reds on Friday night thanks to some big plays through the air along with the running of senior quarterback Deshaun Thrower. He did most of his damage in the first half with 130 yards rushing and 219 yards passing. That all came in the opening half.
Of course, his 65-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage pushed his rushing total to near 200 and turned on the running clock. Muskegon led 37-0 after that long run to open the second half.
“The line blocked and I just took what the defense gave me,” Thrower said. “I don’t try to just to get mine, but distribute the ball from what the defense gives us.”
In the first half, there was some sputtering on offense with a couple of fumbles and some penalties, but once the Big Reds’ offense got going, there was no stopping them.
Actually, the scoring started shortly after Thrower put the ball on the Hackley Stadium turf and Kenowa recovered. Three players later, Andrew Wawrzyniak was tackled in the end zone by William Hunt and Muskeg on led 2-0.
In the latter stages of the first quarter, Thrower completed the first of his four touchdown passes in the first half. Thrower found Joeviar Kennedy open in the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown pass. Adrian Briseno added the extra point and it was 9-0.
After a 3-and-out for Kenowa Hills, Muskegon went right back to work on offense. Starting at its own 42, Muskegon needed just two plays to score again. Thrower rushed 23 yards to the Kenowa 35 then hooked up with senior receiver Justin Foster on a 35-yard touchdown pass to make it 16-0.
The Big Reds took over again midway through the quarter and scored again. This time, a seven-play drive culminated when Thrower found Talmadge Carter for a 36-yard touchdown pass. Another Briseno kick made it 23-0 with 3:47 left in the half.
With just 3 seconds left in the first half, Muskegon would score again. Thrower found Alezay Coleman in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown pass and the Big Reds took that 30-0 lead into the lockerroom at the half.
The outcome was decided by the half. It was just a matter of when Muskegon would score in the third quarter to turn on the running clock.
It didn’t take long.
Muskegon took the opening kickoff, and on the first play from scrimmage, Thrower darted 65 yards for a touchdown and a 37-0 lead.
Briseno later added a 25-yard field goal for the final margin of victory.
Thrower finished the game with eight rushes for 193 yards and one touchdown. His passing numbers were equally impressive with 9 completions on 12 attempts for 219 yards and those four first-half touchdown passes.
Not what you’d expect from ‘Big Red football,’ but impressive nonetheless.
“They had seven or eight in the box so that’s why we chose to throw the football,” Fairfield said. “I don’t know when the last time we threw four touchdown passes in the first half, but I don’t if the Big Red faithful are upset or happy. Usually we are a ‘grind it in your face’ team and we just say if they are going to put that many up there, let’s let our receivers make some plays.”
In the first half, Thrower found seven different receivers.
“We’ve got receivers who can catch the ball,” Thrower said. “And I’ve got a line that can protect. They loaded the box on us and we took what they gave us.”
And in the second half, the Big Reds’ defense was able to stymie the Kenowa Hills offense and preserve the shutout.
“We’re starting to gell with the little things,” Fairfield said. “We still have to clear up some things, especially on the penalties. Those are things that we can coach and correct.”