By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal

In last week’s Division 2 regional championship game, the Muskegon Big Reds were faced with the task of stopping a highly skilled and quick running back.

Needless to say, the Big Reds put the squeeze on Midland’s Will Williams en route to a 24-7 victory and a place in the state semifinals. Williams, who came into the game with more than 1,800 yards rushing, mustered a mere 30 yards and that included negative yardage in the first half.

This week, Muskegon is preparing for an undefeated Portage Central team that features a strong offensive backfield, including Jerrod Davis, who rushed for 228 yards last week in the Mustangs’ 42-21 victory over Farmington Hills Harrison. Throw in quarterback Ryan Mergener and running back Jacob Allan and you can see the Big Reds are facing a difficult task.

The Big Reds will take on the Mustangs at 1 p.m. Saturday at East Kentwood High School.

The Mustangs average more than 47 points per game and allow less than 12.

Portage Central pulled out that victory after two-thirds of that talented backfield was injured against FH Harrison. Mergener and Allan both suffered ankle injuries and saw limited playing time. That put the pressure on Davis, who responded with three touchdowns, and backup quarterback Mickey Losey, who completed 3-of-6 passes for 101 yards and one touchdown. The Mustangs rolled up 466 yards of offense.

“They are a white knuckle team and physical,” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said. “We will have our hands full.”

Fairfield isn’t sure of Mergener and Allan’s status for this weekend, but he is “preparing for all three” to be in the lineup.

Coach Mike Enders has led the Mustangs to a 12-0 record (school record for victories) and one game shy of the state finals. Portage Central lost to Birmingham Brother Rice in the 1977 state finals for its only appearance in the title game.

Fairfield was pleased with his team’s defensive effort in the regional final against Midland, but his offense was another story.

“Our offense had to be more productive than last week,” Fairfield said.

Quarterback Deshaun Thrower had been banged up in recent weeks with ankle and left (non-throwing) hand issues. He will present plenty of challenges for the Mustang defense. He has rushed for more than 1,100 yards and passed for more than 1,500.

Not only is the offense a concern, but the possibility of some nasty weather is also a concern to the Big Reds’ coach.

“There may be snow and cold so we have to deal with it,” Fairfield said. “They are projecting cold and the kids must be mentally ready. If they want to play an indoor game (Ford Field), you have to win that outdoor game.”

The winner of Saturday’s showdown will head to the Division 2 state finals at Ford Field on Nov. 29. Gametime is 1 p.m.