Mona Shores-Muskegon II: This time it’s for all the marbles, with the winner advancing and the loser going home

By Adam Knorr

When Mona Shores and Muskegon squared off in football on Oct. 16, the Sailors squeaked out a 21-18 victory in front of a huge crowd at Mona Shores High School.lsj-fb-logo

That was a very big game, with the O-K Black Conference title and local bragging rights on the line.Sport clips 2015 football sponsor logo

This Saturday the Sailors and Big Reds will square off again, only this time, the stakes are even higher. It’s winner-take-all in a Division 2 district final at Mona Shores, with kickoff slated for 5 p.m.

In other words, win or go home.

“Everybody is asking the million dollar question, if we want another crack at them, but if it was Cedar Springs again, if it was anybody again, we’re just celebrating that we’re playing football,” said Muskegon Coach Shane Fairfield, whose team is 8-2. “I don’t want to make it all about revenge. We just know that we win and go on, and we lose and we don’t.”

One question Mona Shores Coach Matt Koziak is hearing involves the difficulty of beating a good team twice in one season. For the Sailors it will be even more of a trick, because they will be going for three straight wins against the Big Reds, dating back to last season.

“As an assistant at Muskegon, I believeback in 2007, we beat Hudsonville pretty handily then lost to them in the playoffs,” said Koziak, whose team is a perfect 10-0. “But then last year we saw a good Caledonia twice and handled them pretty well.

Dom Shermeta breaks a tackle and goes 59-yards to give Mona Shores a 21-3 third-quarter lead. Photo/Tim Reilly

“We just have to execute, block and tackle. The schemes don’t change that much, the players don’t change at all. I think making the least amount of mistakes, and having the ability to overcome your mistakes, will play a huge role in this game.”

Koziak also knows that the Sailors were less than convincing in last week’s 21-12 victory over Forest Hills Northern.

Muskegon, on the other hand, was impressive in defeating previously undefeated Traverse City Central 40-14 on the road.

“Absolutely we didn’t,” Koziak said, when asked if his team played as well as it could have. “But I think Forest Hills Northern had something to do with that. It’s playoff season, and you’re going to run into some teams that aren’t going to go away easily.

“You have to play better every round. Teams are going to be better, and the games are going to be harder.”

Fairfield saw his team make a number of mental errors in the first game against Mona Shores, particularly in a penalty- and error-filled first half. He thinks he may have put too much emphasis on the rivalry aspect of the game, and vows not to do the same this time around.Muskegon's Keyante Carpenter comes down with the interception. Photo/Tim Reilly

“I think last time we made the mistakes of making it about that and it being a cross-town rival, Shores, playing against your friends, and that’s not how we normally operate,” Fairfield said. “We made the game bigger than it needed to be and we fell into the trap a little bit.”

Koziak tends to agree, because his team had its own share of errors in the first half of the showdown. But he thinks the Sailors will be more relaxed this time around.

“On our first possession I think we had four false start penalties,” Koziak said. “To start I think we were maybe a bit too caught up in the moment. I don’t think it was because we played up the rivalry too much. The guys know about Muskegon. I think it may have had a bit to do with kids saying, holy cow, it’s here.

“I think it will be a little bit more natural for them this time.”

Both teams shaking the jitters could result in a higher scoring game. While both teams have explosive offensive units, neither got completely untracked in the first showdown.

Mona Shores’ offense had trouble activating its dynamic passing attack. Quarterback Tyler Trovinger and receivers Hunter Broersma, Kobe Burse, Darece Roberson, among others, were largely held in check.

It was up to bruising fullback Dom Shermeta to shoulder the load, and he did, rushing for 171 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries in the Sailors’ win.AH4Y0466x

The Big Reds never got untracked offensively, either.  With the exception of one 99-yard scoring drive, the Mona Shores defense stifled the explosive Muskegon attack, which features  quarterback Kalil Pimpleton, running back Jared Pittman, all-everything slot receiver PP Copeland and wideout Jacorey Sullivan.

But nobody should expect that to happen again because both teams can do a lot of damage.

The Sailors have averaged 40 points per game against opponents other than Muskegon.

Trovinger has completed  74 of 110 passes for 1,304 yards and 17 touchdowns. On the ground he has 79 carries for 436 yards and six touchdowns.

Roberson has 30 receptions for 586 yards and nine touchdowns. Burse has 29 catches for 449 yards and seven touchdowns, while Broersma has 19 receptions for 482 yards and seven touchdowns.

Shermeta has 128 rushes for 902 yards and five touchdowns.

The Big Reds have average 43 points against its nine other opponents.

Pimpleton, a junior, has had a monster season for the Big Reds. He’s completed 68 of 114 passes for 972 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed 128 times for 1,030 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Copeland has 73 carries for 628 yards and nine touchdowns and 26 receptions for 255 yards and three touchdowns. Pittman has 61 carries for 767 yards and eight TDs while Sullivan has 27 catches for 396 yards and five touchdowns.

“They have a really good defense,” Fairfield said about Mona Shores. “We have to take care of the things that we have to, to make sure we don’t give them any help.”

“We have to make fewer mistakes,” Koziak said. “We were behind in the sticks a lot (against Muskegon). By that I mean we had a lot of first-and-15 and second-and-12. We weren’t getting enough positive yardage on first down.

“We also have to do a better job of getting the ball into our skill guys’ hands.”

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