Big Reds avenge earlier loss, advance to D2 regionals, with a thrilling 21-10 comeback win over Mona Shores

By Steve Gunn and Dave Hart
LocalSportsJournal.com

NORTON SHORES – The Muskegon Big Reds weren’t going to be denied again.

Last month the Big Reds played Mona Shores in a local football showdown, with the O-K Black Conference title on the line.
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The Big Reds fell behind by 18 points, fought their way back to within three points, then fell just short on a missed field goal in the final seconds.Sport clips 2015 football sponsor logo

A similar scenario almost played out Saturday, when the Big Red and Sailors met again in a rematch in the Division 2 district finals. Mona Shores led 10-7, and it looked like that lead might hold up when Muskegon missed a field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter.

But this time the Big Reds kept their composure and got the job done. They drove 7o yards in 11 plays, capped by a one-yard touchdown by quarterback Kalil Pimpleton to take the lead with 3:44 remaining.

Then Jacorey Sullivan intercepted a Sailor pass and returned it 39 yards for a pick-six score, giving the Big Reds a thrilling 21-10 victory in front of an overflow crowd at Mona Shores High School.

Muskegon, now 9-2, will visit Lowell next weekend in the state regional round. The date and time of the game has yet to be announced. A victory would put the Big Reds in the state semifinals.

Muskegon’s PP Copeland (7) gets around the corner against Mona Shores’ Deandre Oakes-Owens. Photo/Eric Sturr

Muskegon’s PP Copeland (7) gets around the corner against Mona Shores’ Deandre Oakes-Owens. Photo/Eric Sturr

Mona Shores finished its outstanding season with a 10-1 record.

“It’s just a matter of perseverance,” said Muskegon Coach Shane Fairfield, whose team is trying to qualify for its fourth straight appearance in the state finals. “At halftime we just told them to just play and have fun and make the plays you’re supposed to make, and God bless them, they did it.

“Our kids just stuck to the plan and stuck to the grind, and they were victorious because of it.”

Mona Shores Coach Matt Koziak saluted the Big Reds for executing with the game on the line, but also expressed tremendous pride in his own team’s performance. The Sailors won back-to-back O-K Black titles and made it all the way to the state finals last season.

“(The game) was kind of what we expected, kind of a knock out, drag out bout,” Koziak said. “There was a lot of hard hitting, and I think both teams left it all out on the field. I credit Muskegon with its game plan – it seemed like they broke a lot of tackles.

“But I am so proud of our kids, it’s a special group. It was obviously emotional in the locker room, but they are going to look back a couple months from now and realize what they did for this program and community and it will be all smiles.

“I know we didn’t accomplish the ultimate goal which was Ford Field, but it’s a tough road and you have to play really well and limit mistakes and we didn’t play well enough to move on.”

Muskegon’s Jacorey Sullivan (11) breaks up a pass to Hunter Boersma (11) stopping a Mona Shores drive. Photo/Eric Sturr

Muskegon’s Jacorey Sullivan (11) breaks up a pass to Hunter Boersma (11) stopping a Mona Shores drive. Photo/Eric Sturr

Muskegon drew first blood in the first quarter with a seven-play touchdown drive that started at the 50  yard line following a Mona Shores punt.

The big play on the drive was a screen pass from Pimpleton to Jacarius Scott, who tiptoed his way up the sideline for a 37-yard gain to the Sailor 12.

Jared Pittman scored on a one-yard burst five plays later with 3:09 left in the first, and the extra point gave Muskegon a 7-0 lead.

Mona Shores counterpunched on its next possession, driving 80 yards on seven plays, culminating in a beautiful 36-yard scoring strike from quarterback Tyler Trovinger to Darece Roberson. The extra point made the score 7-7.

Muskegon killed about six minutes of the clock in the second quarter, driving to the Sailor 28, before turning the ball over on downs.

Mona Shores took possession and drove deep into Big Red territory, due mostly to a 34-yard completion from Trovinger to Roberson, but the effort stalled at the Muskegon 4.

Kevin Quigg ended the first half scoring with a 20-yard field goal, giving the Sailors a 10-7 halftime lead.

Muskegons’ Derek Spann chases Mona Shores’ Tyler Trovinger out of the pocket. Photo/Eric Sturr

Muskegons’ Derek Spann chases Mona Shores’ Tyler Trovinger out of the pocket. Photo/Eric Sturr

Both teams sputtered offensively for most of the second half, and the third quarter was scoreless.

The Big Reds had a 13-play drive that started at their own 16 with 4:35 left in the third quarter. They worked their way down to the Mona Shores 14 with just over 10 minutes remaining, but came away empty following a 30-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide to the left.

But Muskegon got the ball back a little over a minute later on its own 30-yard-line, following a Mona Shores punt.

The Big Reds calmly executed an 11-play drive, highlighted by a leaping catch by Sullivan for a 19-yard gain, a screen pass to Scott for a 10-yard gain, and a pitch from Pimpleton to PP Copeland for a 13-yard gain.

Pimpleton capped the drive with a five yard touchdown run with 3:44 remaining, and the extra point gave the Big Reds a 14-10 lead.

Pimpleton said he never doubted that the offense could score again, despite the lack of points in the second half.

“It was all in our minds – we just had to slow down and calm down,” said Pimpleton, a junior who finished with 23 carries for 85 yards and was 10 of 13 through the air for 130 yards.

Coach Shane Fairfield addresses the district champion Muskegon Big Reds after the game. Photo/Eric Sturr

Coach Shane Fairfield addresses the district champion Muskegon Big Reds after the game. Photo/Eric Sturr

“We had to just keep trusting in ourselves and in our team. The offensive line executed very well (on the go-ahead drive) and our receivers did a great job of blocking.”

Mona Shores started its next drive on its own 16 with plenty of time left, but Sullivan picked off a pass on the first play from scrimmage and rambled 39 yards for the pick six with 3:31 left.

The Sailors were unable to mount a serious threat after that.

‘In the first half I got beat twice (on passes) and I knew they were going to try to pick on me again,” said Sullivan, a junior who plays wide receiver on offense and free safety on defense. “At halftime coach told me to keep my head up, forget about the first half and redeem myself, and that’s what I did.

“This was not about revenge or a rematch. This was just us trying to take the next step and they were in the way.”

Copeland finished with 75 yards on 11 carries for Muskegon. Andrew Ward and Terrion Hill-McKay led the defense with five tackles apiece.

Trovinger completed 11 of 17 passes for 118 yards and had 16 carries for 80 yards for Mona Shores. Roberson had nine catches for 103 yards while Dom Shermetta led the defense with 14 tackles and Elijah Wilson had six tackles and a pass interception.

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