By Nate Thompson
Following the Sailors’ 42-20 victory over host Kenowa Hills on Friday, that emblem became much more significant. Team 53 has accomplished what 52 others failed to do at Mona Shores – complete a perfect regular season.
The Sailors overcame a sluggish first half, but then showed why they’re arguably one of the top teams in the state by controlling the Knights on both sides of the ball. By the time they were done they had put their stamp on history.
“It’s awesome, I’m so proud of those kids and those seniors,” said Mona Shores Coach Matt Koziak, whose team also clinched its second straight O-K Black Conference championship. “It’s just kind of euphoric right now. Last season it was a magical run, but with this, to be 9-0 and get home-field advantage through the playoffs, it’s special.
“It’s huge for our program, huge for our community, huge for our school,” he added. “I always say long overdue. Our community has waited for this for a long time.”
Maybe Mona Shores had somewhat of a hangover from a critical victory over Muskegon last week, because it took the Sailors a little while to wake up against the Knights.
They turned the ball over on their opening two possessions and saw the Knights tie the contest at 14-14 with 57 seconds remaining in the second quarter. The tying touchdown came on an impressive 85-yard sprint by Kenowa Hills’ wing back Stephen Hagen.
But it was 57 seconds Kenowa Hills wished it had back.
Kenowa Hills kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, and Mona Shores elected to have the Knights kick off again. Their second attempt went right to senior Darece Roberson, who followed a parting seam up the middle and raced 82 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
Special teams were huge for Mona Shores throughout the first half. The Sailors scored their first points on a special teams play, a tremendous 60-yard punt return by senior Hunter Broersma with time running down in the first quarter.
“Special teams have kind of hurt us this year, so to get two big returns was huge,” Koziak said. “Darece’s right before the half was big, and Hunter’s punt return came when we were down 7-0. So special teams were lights out.”
After only managing 127 yards in the first half, Mona Shores’ offense shifted to another gear, thanks largely to Broersma.
The Western Michigan University commit hauled in a pair of long touchdown passes from quarterback Tyler Trovinger – a 25-yard connection early in the third and a 30-yard strike with 6:31 left – to put the Sailors comfortably ahead.
Broersma finished with seven catches for 129 yards and also had a first-half interception in a do-it-all performance.
Mona Shores played without starting tailback and middle linebacker Dom Shermeta, but backup Marcus Collins closed strong, adding a 54-yard run and 3-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter for the Sailors’ final score.
Trovinger completed 15-of-22 passes for 248 yards, and also had a three-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Koziak surprised his squad following the game by presenting them with black T-shirts that read “Back-to-Back O-K Black Champs.”
It was another special memory for the Sailors and senior defensive end Nick Brown, who played a pivotal role in keeping the Knights’ run game bottled up in the second half.
“Going 9-0 really says a lot about the hard work we’ve put in and the team we’ve built through our four years here,” he said. “It’s very similar to last year. Last year (in Week 9) was a different kind of atmosphere at Muskegon, but this is still an amazing experience.”