By Nate Thompson

NORTON SHORES — All the supposed experts who were forecasting doom and gloom for the Mona Shores football team this season may have to re-evaluate the situation.LSJ Logo incert

Last Thursday against West Ottawa, Mona Shores didn’t look like a squad that’s replacing 21 of 22 starters from last season’s magical 10-1 squad that won the O-K Black Conference championship.Collins instory art

The Sailors’ offense was just as dynamic as it was a year ago. In fact, it bullied West Ottawa to the tune of 538 total yards, which is the third highest single-game total in program history, according to head coach Matt Koziak.

Leading the way was senior running back Marcus Collins, who had a spectacular start to his final prep campaign with 26 carries for 190 yards and three touchdowns in the 35-12 victory.

He and the Sailors will have a much stiffer challenge this Thursday when they battle defending Division 4 state champion Zeeland West.

“That’s all we heard all offseason was ‘Is Mona Shores going to be good?'” Collins said. “It motivated us because we know that you can’t compare us to all the guys that left, but we still have the same heart.

“So when people were saying that we’d only win by seven (over West Ottawa), we took it as disrespect. I knew we’d win by a lot more than seven.”

Koziak knew Collins would be a key playmaker for the inexperienced Sailors this fall.

Collins earned some valuable experience last year backing up all-state running back/linebacker Dom Shermeta. He demonstrated his potential with a pair of touchdown runs in their regular season finale against Kenowa Hills, and had another solid outing in the Sailors’ playoff victory over Forest Hills Northern.

“We sat down with him this summer and told him we were going to lean on him,” Koziak said. “He had the most experience out of anyone coming back, because he gave Dom some breathers here and there throughout last season.

“Marcus put in a lot of work in the weight room and he got bigger and stronger. We asked him if he wanted to be the guy and potentially carry the ball 20 to 25 times a game.”

Collins, who is up to 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds, said it was music to his ears to have Koziak “put the team on his back.”

“I let him know that I’d be willing to do anything, even if it means 25, 30 carries a game,” Collins said. “It doesn’t matter to me, as long as we get the ‘W’ at the end. I’d even do 40 carries if it meant helping the team.”

Collins said it was difficult at times being an understudy in his junior season, but he’s glad he had Shermeta, who now plays at Davenport University, leading the way.

“The thing I took away from watching Dom was seeing him in games, he never stops his feet,” Collins said. “That’s why he was able to run over all those tacklers. The biggest thing he taught me was to always go 100 percent and never let up.”

Collins came from an athletic family, which has a strong basketball background. His father, Marcus Collins Sr., and mother, Leticia Smith, were both standouts on the hardwood at Muskegon High School.

But Collins said he fell in love with football at an early age, and decided to part ways with hoops to focus on being the best he can be on the gridiron.

“I just fell in love with the process of working out and getting better,” he said. “This summer I was always out there early running in the sun, just doing my thing.”

With Collins running well, and junior quarterback Tristan Robbins showing an advanced moxie at orchestrating the offense, Mona Shores could remain a force to be reckoned with.

“We try to keep our expectations the same as they have been,” Koziak said. “We’re striving to make the playoffs, win our conference title and then make a run in the playoffs.

“If we win (against Zeeland West), maybe that does put a chip on our shoulder that some people were overlooking us this year. But if we lose, that doesn’t change our goals and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

As Collins put it, it’s all about obtaining the feeling that “no team can stop us.”

So far, so good.