This time the stakes were a little higher, because the Mustangs were playing for the Great Lakes Football League’s Western Division championship.
But the results were the same as the two previous games, with the Mustangs topping the Cougars 30-12 at Oakridge High School and advancing to the league championship against the Detroit Ravens at home on Sept. 12.
“We’ve got to understand it’s our third year in existence,” said quarterback Aaron James. “It’s the third championship game we’ve played in. but we lost last year. We got some unfinished business and a bad taste in our mouths. We know they’re going to come in hungry.”
Muskegon struggled in the passing game but excelled on the ground on Saturday night. Maurice Shirell, Rodney Anderson and DeMarcus Martin all rushed for touchdowns, JaMarcus McMillian took a pick six to the house and Jose Diaz nailed a field goal to cap Muskegon’s scoring.
McMillian’s interception and score were the highlight of the game.
With five seconds left in the first half, the Cougars faced fourth-and-long deep in the Mustangs’ territory. McMillian jumped a route in the end zone and took his interception the length of the field for a 104-yard interception pick six as the clock expired.
The Mustangs led 23-0 at halftime and never looked back.
James struggled in the passing game on an uncharacteristic night. He threw three interceptions and no touchdowns, but wasn’t worried by his personal stat line.
“Individual stats are for losers,” James said. “I don’t care about that. They only thing I care about is the scoreboard.”
McMillian’s defensive play iced the game, though the Cougars outscored the Mustangs 12-7 in the second half.
The final score didn’t reflect the Mustangs’ usual dominance. Muskegon usually blows out opponents by 30 or 40 points or more.
“We didn’t execute like we know how to,” said head coach Brad Haney. “We did a lot of dumb boneheaded mistakes and we weren’t crisp. We didn’t have the mentality we usually had.”
Haney praised the offensive line that led Muskegon to three rushing touchdowns.
“The rushing game was working and we stuck with it,” Haney said. “I was leaning on my offensive linemen. I always tell them it starts with them. They dictate what I can call and if they’re dominating I can call anything.”