By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – Oh man, the rematch the entire Big Red fan base has been yearning for.
Between two teams a single loss, which came from the hand of the other. November in Michigan…
Does it get any better than Lowell/Muskegon, No. 2 versus No. 3, for a Div. 1 district title?
Whether or not the actual game lives up to the hype, Muskegon comes into the contest as underdog, especially after Lowell defeated the Big Reds 31-20 in Week 4.
Last time the two teams faced off, the roles were reversed.
Muskegon was just coming off a dominating, 45-0 win over Rockford, in which the performance of Big Red senior QB Deshaun Thrower was amazing enough to get the entire stadium to wonder if, maybe, he might forgo that Stony Brook U hoops commitment so we might get to watch him next fall, on Saturdays.
That is, Thrower piled up 218 yards on the ground and 49 more and another score on 5-for-9 passing.
The Big Reds looked like world-beaters, like they couldn’t be stopped.
Then they got stopped.
The next week in Lowell, Thrower came back down to earth, rushing for 40 yards and throwing for 132 yards (on just seven completions) against the stingy Red Arrow defense. Instead, it was Thrower’s counterpart, senior Kyler Shurlow who drew the ‘ohhs’ and ‘ahhs’ of the fans, running for over 100 yards and passing for over 150 more.
Since then, the Reds Arrows have continued to dismantle opponent after opponent, scoring an average of nearly 45 points a game, while Muskegon has similarly dominated its opponents, outscoring its final six foes 241-55.
Before all the stats and fireworks, Big Red head coach Shane Fairfield said Thursday the team that wins will be the one which follows the formula.
“We need to execute the game plan,” said Fairfield, “play with a sense of urgency, know the importance of every down. The same stuff we needed to do last time we played them. The difference will be that the last time we played, there was a next week. This time, it’s now or never.”
Lowell’s offense is as explosive as its defense is solid, and Shurlow has plenty of options, including wideout Ben Bigham and running back Kanon Dean. Sophomore receiver Gabe Steed will also be a factor.
Thrower isn’t exactly hurting in the options department as well. Senior slot back John Hall can take it to the house at a moment’s notice, while junior running back Caleb Washington does a good job of moving the sticks as well. Receivers Joeviair Kennedy and Justin Foster are also dangerous weapons for Muskegon.
Hall is also a force in the defensive backfield, while defensive line Ken Finley dominates the trenches.
According to Fairfield, the Big Reds aren’t looking for revenge.
“You can’t get caught up in that,” he said, “worry about who won what or when. That’s the past. It’s Lowell for the district title. That’s where our focus is.”
Muskegon is coming off two-straight meetings with league-rival Reeths-Puffer – which Muskegon won 20-7 and 49-14 – and while it might appear at first to be a disadvantage for the Big Reds, Fairfield said it’s quite the opposite.
“I think it helps a little,” he said. “Reeths-Puffer tries to out-formation you; it’s the same with Lowell. Reeths-Puffer used 30 different formations and shifts, which is something we expect of Lowell. We look at it like instead of green and white (Reeths-Puffer’s colors), this week it’s red and white (Lowell’s colers).”
But the winner’s road isn’t over yet. Still lurking on the Muskegon/Lowell side of the Div. 2 bracket are ranked Midland, Portage Central and Farmington Hills Harrison, to say nothing of No. 1 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice on the other side of the bracket.