By Nate Thompson
But at the end of the day the Sailors were still standing.
Behind a dominant second-half running attack spearheaded by senior Dom Shermeta and junior Marcus Collins, the Sailors put away the pesky Huskies, 21-12, to survive and advance in the Division 2 state playoffs.
Mona Shores improved its record to 10-0, while Forest Hills Northern ended its season at 7-3.
Mona Shores moved on to a much-anticipated rematch against Muskegon, which easily dismantled Traverse City Central in its opening-round matchup.
The Sailors edged the Big Reds at Sailor Stadium on Oct. 16, 21-18, but there will be much more on the line when the rivals square off again.
Asked if the Sailors wanted a rematch with the Big Reds for the district championship, Shermeta didn’t hesitate.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “We’re fine with that. It never gets old in a big game like that. It’s always exciting when you get to play against talented football teams, especially when they’re in our own city.”
Shermeta swore that the Sailors weren’t looking past the Huskies, despite the fact that they struggled early. They were outgained by Forest Hills Northern 174-5 in the first quarter, and the Huskies had a 6-0 lead.
FHN’s first-quarter lead could have been larger, but the Sailors stuffed the Huskies short on a fourth-and-one run on the 3 yard line.
“I don’t think necessarily we came out flat, it was more Forest Hills Northern not wanting to turn their stuff in to end their year,” said Mona Shores’ coach Matt Koziak. “They came out inspired and used some of our strengths against us. Their jet sweeps hurt us a bit. They threw some false keys at us and they did a good job at beating us to the edge.”
Shermeta said it was just a matter of the Sailors’ offensive line buckling down and controlling the line of scrimmage.
Mona Shores turned in two impressive scoring drives in the second quarter, cashing in on an 18-yard keeper by quarterback Tyler Trovinger with 9:38 on the clock, and a five-yard burst up the middle by Collins with 1:49 left in the half.
But it was Shermeta who was the raging bull throughout the contest, leading the Sailors with 119 yards on 20 carries.
Forest Hills Northern remained in contention into the third quarter. Speedy running back Bryce Fraser took a direct snap and raced 54 yards to the end zone to trim the Sailors’ lead to 14-12.
Shermeta said he didn’t expect the Huskies to run as much of the Wildcat formation as they did, and Fraser made it thrive, totaling 205 yards on 25 carries.
Mona Shores answered the Huskies’ challenge by turning in an important 73-yard scoring drive,capped by Shermeta’s 1-yard plunge on the first play of the fourth quarter. The score was set up by a spectacular over-the-head 38-yard catch by Hunter Broersma, as he dragged one foot in-bounds to complete the tremendous play.
The Sailors’ defense did the rest, forcing FHN into four-straight incomplete passes on its final drive to seal the victory.
Collins finished with 49 yards on seven carries for the Sailors, while Trovinger completed 7-of-14 passes for 110 yards. Defensively, Elijah Wilson and Darece Roberson each had first-half interceptions.
Koziak said he’s excited to be a part of another showdown with Muskegon.
“I’m sure our kids are excited about it, and I’m sure they want back at us,” he said. “But there’s going to be a lot more on the line than a conference title. Now it’s who’s going home.
“We’ll have to play better than we did tonight, that’s for sure,” he added. “But our kids will be ready.”