By Justin Haggerty
In the end, the Sailors were able to squeak out their second straight win against Muskegon, 21-18 in a game that will be talked about for years to come.
Mona Shores built a commanding 21-3 lead after three quarters, then withstood a furious Big Red comeback to secure the win. The outcome was only decided when Muskegon missed a 47-yard field goal attempt with seconds left on the clock.
Mona Shores, now 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the league, can clinch the O-K Black Conference title with a victory next week over Kenowa Hills.
Muskegon, now 6-2 and 3-1 in the league, plays Grand Rapids Union next week.
“(This win) is huge,” said Mona Shores Coach Matt Koziak. “Our kids kind of had a chip on their shoulder, some wondered if last year was a fluke. This is a team game and to be 8-0 and be conference champions, it’s huge.
“It’s huge for our program, it’s huge for our community, it’s huge for our school.”
Neither team played up to the the pregame hype in the first two quarters.
The first half was plagued with 17 combined penalties for 150 total yards as nerves were at an all time high for both teams. The Big Reds were also hurt by several bad snaps between the center and quarterback that stalled numerous drives.
“It was not typical of either team,” Koziak said. “I think kids have been waiting longer than a week for this. The crowd was electric, the crowd was ecstatic, I think it was just deer in the headlights at first.”
Muskegon took the opening drive to the Sailor 16-yard-line before stalling. Demetrio Lopez put the Big Reds on the board with a 34-yard field goal.
Mona Shores scored the only other points of the first half when Dom Shermeta burst through the line for a six-yard score to cap a seven-play, 75 yard-drive.
The Sailors had a 7-3 halftime lead.
Shores opened the second half with a bang, Shermeta ran between the tackles and bounced out for a 59 yard touchdown run on the third play from scrimmage, giving the Sailors a 14-3 lead.
On their very next drive, senior quarterback Tyler Trovinger, who finished with 124 all-purpose yards, capped a nine play, 69-yard drive with a one-yard plunge to give the Sailors a commanding 21-3 lead after three quarters.
Pretty much everyone thought the game was out of reach at that point – but the Big Reds didn’t agree.
Mona Shores next drive went for 12 plays and 63 yards, all the way to the Muskegon one-yard line. A touchdown would have almost certainly put the victory on ice for the Sailors.
But the Big Red defense stood tall on fourth-and-goal, stopping Shermeta at the one yard line to turn the tables.
“It’s all about momentum,” Muskegon head coach Shane Fairfield said. “These are 16-17 year old kids. Whoever has the mojo and has the feel is hard to stop.”
From the shadow of his goalposts, Muskegon star quarterback Kalil Pimpleton led his team on an eight play, 99-yard drive that featured receiver PP Copeland with a run and a catch totaling 46 yards.
Pimpleton finished the drive with a 27 yard touchdown run down the left hash.
After a failed two-point conversion attempt, Muskegon was down 21-9.
The ensuing kickoff was downed by the Sailors at their three yard line. Mona Shores failed to earn a first down and was forced to punt from its two yard line.
The snap sailed over punter Hunter Broersma‘s head and out of the back of the end zone for a safety to close the gap to 21-11.
Mona Shores’ next possession was three plays and a punt.
That punt was blocked at the Mona Shores 35 yard line by Muskegon’s Jordan Redmon, who scooped up the ball at the 27 and beat everyone to the end zone to make the score 21-18.
The Sailors were forced to punt again with less than a minute to play. Muskegon got the ball at the Mona Shores 43.
After a completion to Copeland to the 30, Pimpleton spiked the ball with just eight seconds to play.
Enter Lopez to try a 47-yard field goal that would have sent the game into overtime.
Unfortunately for the Big Reds, the snap did not come out clean and the kick fell short.
Fairfield said the field goal attempt was an easy decision to make.
“(On a pass) if he catches it and gets tackled in bounds, now we don’t even have a shot,” Fairfield said.
“(Lopez) has kicked those before in practice. Not with the nerves and the stress, but I’m glad he had to feel that now (before the playoffs).”