The Big Reds drove down to the 7-yard line with just seconds remaining against Novi Detroit Catholic Central, but failed twice to put points on the board and fell to the Shamrocks, 15-12.
It was just the second season-opening loss for Muskegon in its past 16 seasons.
“It was a playoff atmosphere and an emotional game,” said Muskegon head coach Shane Fairfield. “We put ourself in position for the win, but we couldn’t close the deal.”
On 3rd-and-1 from the 7, Muskegon junior quarterback Kalil Pimpleton appeared to complete a go-ahead touchdown pass to Terrion Hill-McKay, but the referees ruled McKay didn’t get one foot down in-bounds.
Fairfield said from his angle, he thought Hill-McKay snuck a foot down, but he added that he trusted the refs’ judgement.
“You gotta believe they’re trustworthy people,” he said. “It is what it is.”
On fourth down with 5 seconds left, Fairfield elected to go for the tie, and sent out the kicker to go for a 26-yard field goal.
The kicker, who had missed two extra points earlier in the game, didn’t get enough air on the field goal attempt and it was no good, sealing the Big Reds’ fate.
“With the way our defense was playing, we felt it was the right call (to go for the tie),’ Fairfield said. “They only had 17-some rushing yards and 136 passing yards. And we had over 350 yards of total offense.”
Muskegon’s defense shined throughout the first half, holding the hosts scoreless with stellar run defense. Hill-McKay led the charge with nine tackles and two sacks.
The Big Reds scored on their second offensive possession, as running back Jared Pittman found the end zone on a short run to put Muskegon up 6-0.
Muskegon lost some potential points in the second quarter when a big pass play to Cameron Copeland near the goal line was negated due to a holding penalty.
The contest remained at 6-0 until early in the third quarter, when Pimpleton threw his first varsity touchdown, an tremendous 76-yard catch and run by junior receiver Jacorey Sullivan to make the score 12-0.
Although he threw three interceptions, Pimpleton had a strong effort on the ground, leading the Big Reds with 129 rushing yards on 21 attempts.
The Shamrocks altered their game plan in the second half, turning more to the pass with quarterback Theo Day. It resulted in a third-quarter touchdown that trimmed their deficit to 12-7, and a go-ahead score on a 3rd-and-10 play from the 10 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Pimpleton relied on his tremendous scrambling ability to drive the Big Reds down the field with under 1:30 to play, but they couldn’t muster the game-winning or tying points.