By Nate Thompson

MUSKEGON – Under normal circumstances, stepping in as the new starting quarterback for a high profile team like Muskegon might be nerve-wracking, particularly for a junior.LSJ Logo incert

But for Kalil Pimpleton, Big Red football is a family tradition, so he felt right at home right away.Sport clips 2015 football sponsor logo

His uncle, Christopher Sandford, holds several program rushing records during his playing days at Muskegon High, and was the first to encourage his nephew to utilize his skills at quarterback.

“My uncle was the one who trusted in me that I could play quarterback,” Pimpleton said. “He was my coach in eighth grade. Before that, I always thought running back was the key for me. But he saw me throw and told me, ‘No, you’re going to stick with this.'”

Pimpleton’s stepfather, Jeff Brown, was a member of the Big Reds’ Class A state championship team in 1986.

Muskegon quarterback Kalik Pimpleton, center, flanked by offensive lineman Juanye' Johnson (left) and Devin Sanders (right). Photo/Jason Goorman

Muskegon quarterback Kalil Pimpleton, center, flanked by offensive linemen Juanye’ Johnson (left) and Devin Sanders. Photo/Jason Goorman

“Oh yeah, he’s always talking about Muskegon football,” Pimpleton said with a laugh. “It’s like a family tradition. My mother (Tawana Brown) and a lot of my aunts and uncles went there.

“They’re big on tradition and I’m trying to live up to it.”

It’s even a family affair on the current Big Red roster, with Pimpleton often handing the ball off to his cousins – senior running back Jared Pittman or senior fullback/linebacker Ernest Lyons.

“We’ve been playing together since we’ve been kids,” Pimpleton said.

Pimpleton has made his family circle extremely proud this fall, turning in stretches of brilliant play. After a heartbreaking season-opening loss to Detroit Catholic Central, Muskegon has won four straight in convincing fashion.

The Big Reds will look to extend that streak on Friday when they host Zeeland East in an O-K Black Conference clash.

A lot of the success has to do with Pimpleton’s quick adjustment and strong performance on the ground and through the air.

Pimpleton, who said he received a scholarship offer from Ferris State University last week, is perfectly suited to run Coach Shane Fairfield’s veer option attack on offense, despite standing just 5-foot-7 and weighing 185 pounds.

Fairfield said Pimpleton, who runs a 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Through five games, Pimpleton has over 550 yards rushing with nine touchdowns, and has also thrown five passing touchdowns.

Of course he’s done all of his damage with a great deal of assistance from Muskegon’s very capable offensive line, which includes starters Juanye’ Johnson, Devin Sanders, Derices Brown, AJ Reed and Dylan Oplinger.

“I’m a defensive-minded guy, and I’m glad I don’t have to defend him,” Fairfield said. “I’ve seen these 6-2, 6-3 220-pound quarterbacks the last couple weeks and I’ll take them because you know where they’re going – usually straight at you.

“With Kalil, you know where he starts, but you don’t know where he’ll end up. All he needs is a little crease, and he’s gone. He puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses.”

What might be equally impressive is Pimpleton’s throwing ability. At East Grand Rapids in Week 4, Pimpleton lofted an effortless pass nearly 50 yards on the money to standout wide receiver Jacorey Sullivan, leading to a touchdown.

Pimpleton provided further proof that his size shouldn’t dictate his position. He said he’s heard doubters all of his life, but again, his Uncle Christopher was the first one to believe in him.

“I’ve always shrugged it off,” Pimpleton said. “I’ve always admired pro athletes who are shorter. Guys like Nate Robinson in the NBA, or (quarterback) Russell Wilson with the Seahawks.”

It didn’t take much for Fairfield to be sold on Pimpleton’s ability at the position.

“He was 9-0 as the starting quarterback as a freshman, and I went to every single one of his games at JV, and he led them to 8-1,” Fairfield said. “Oh yeah, I had no doubts he could play quarterback.”

Fairfield also has no doubts that with Pimpleton in charge, the Big Reds have a fighting chance to get back to Ford Field for the fourth straight year and compete for a state championship.

Since the turnover-plagued loss in Week 1, Muskegon hasn’t scored less than 39 points.

“I have just as much confidence in KP going into a big game than any other quarterback I’ve coached,” Fairfield said. “The offensive output we’ve been able to produce has been great, and we’ve got a chance to get even better.”