By Dan Chalk
Midland Daily News
MIDLAND — Mona Shores football coach Matt Koziak almost couldn’t describe the moment. But his big smile told the story.
Koziak’s third-ranked Sailors kept their magical run going on Friday night with an impressive 41-14 win over the second-ranked Midland Dow Chargers at Midland Stadium in a Division 2 district final.
After earning their first ever district championship, the Sailors (10-1) will host Battle Creek Lakeview (9-1) next Friday at 7 p.m. in the regional final.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said Koziak, whose Sailors have steadily improved after going 1-8 in his first season three years ago. “You can’t write a better story with our seniors and how we struggled our first year and (for them) to continue to believe when things didn’t go our way.
“And they get all the credit. Our senior group is just a dynamic group and special young men.”
The Sailors’ senior quarterback, Tyree Jackson, a four-year starter and All-State candidate, threw for 119 yards and a touchdown and ran for 105 yards and three scores as Mona Shores handed Dow (10-1) its only loss of the season.
“He is a phenomenal all-around player,” Dow coach Jason Watkins said of Jackson.
“The kids battled and played hard all season long. It just wasn’t our night tonight,” Watkins added.
Running back DeOntay Moffett had 18 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown for the Sailors.
The Sailors jumped to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, scoring on their first three possessions.
Moffett ran for a 7-yard TD, Jackson ran for a 3-yard score, and Jackson hit Matt Schuiteman for a 66-yard score in the final minute of the quarter.
Meanwhile, the Chargers couldn’t capitalize on two drives inside the Sailors’ 20.
After Mona Shores’s second TD, Dow drove to the 18, and went to a trick play to try to score, but Justin Cook’s pass was intercepted by Hunter Broersma in the end zone.
Early in the second quarter, the Chargers had first and goal at the Mona Shores 9, but two straight sacks moved the ball back to the 29, and Dow eventually turned it over on downs.
But Dow stayed in the game thanks to a gutsy call and a huge play.
On fourth and inches from the Dow 26, Caleb Richard swept around the left end on a toss from quarterback Alec Marty and then cut to the middle and went 74 yards for a touchdown, making it 21-7 after Max Kidd’s extra point with 2:19 left in the first half.
Early in the third quarter, Richard recovered a Sailors’ fumble at the Dow 44, but the Chargers couldn’t get a first down and turned it over on downs. Mona Shores then scored on Jackson’s 4-yard run to make it 28-7 at 6:37 of the third.
Dow pulled off another big play with a hook-and-ladder. Marty passed to Mike Robb, who lateraled to Richard for a 58-yard pass play to the Mona Shores 11, setting up Marty’s TD pass to Robb on the next play to make it 28-14.
The Sailors proceeded to seal the victory with a six-yard TD run by Jackson late in the third and an 11-yard TD run by DeOntay Moffett with 1:17 left in the game to make it 41-14.
“They’re an incredibly gifted team physically,” Watkins said of Mona Shores. “They were exactly what we expected them to be. We had to play a better game than this to beat them.”
For Dow, Richard and Marty ended their careers with big nights. Richard had six catches for 151 yards and seven carries for 84 yards and a score, and Marty passed for 255 yards and a TD.
Koziak said it would be a fun three-hour bus ride home after the game.
“I tell you what — the bus ride’s going to be a lot better on the way home, riding three hours after winning,” he said.
“I don’t want (this playoff run) to end and our kids don’t want it to end,” Koziak added. “They love each other and they just want to stick together and they want to keep playing together.”
What a great job coach!