By Nate Thompson
GRAND RAPIDS – The magic finally ran out for the Mona Shores football team.
Forest Hills junior quarterback Luke Majick threw a pair of touchdown passes in the third quarter, and the Rangers had a momentum-swaying interception return for a touchdown in the third, en route to a 28-21 victory over Mona Shores in a D2 district championship game.
Mona Shores ‘ outstanding season came to an end with a 9-2 record. Forest Hills Central advances to next week’s regional round at home against Traverse City Central.
“This one is going to hurt for awhile,” Mona Shores head coach Matt Koziak said in a somber Sailors’ locker room after the contest. “But when we look back at it all, we’ll realize we’ve got a lot to be proud of.”
The Sailors were stung by what could have been in the first half. Mona Shores outgained Forest Hills Central by a 3-to-1 margin (299 to 98 yards) after one half, but the Sailors only had a 14-7 lead at the break.
Senior Austin Flowers, who hadn’t missed a field goal all season, pushed a pair of kicks wide right on the Sailors’ first two trips to the red zone.
“He’s made more field goals than anyone in Mona Shores history,” Koziak said. “For whatever reason, he missed a couple there, but we were still in the game and took the lead right after that.”
Mona Shores grabbed a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard touchdown run by senior Dee Davis with 27 seconds remaining in the first quarter, but the Rangers tied the contest on their first possession of the second quarter when the elusive Majick slipped in from three yards out.
The Rangers’ talented lefty signal caller completed 10-of-19 passes for 230 yards and also ran for 81 yards.
Mona Shores re-grouped and turned in an impressive scoring drive right before the half, capped by a 5-yard touchdown burst up the middle by junior Sincere Dent.
But the Sailors suffered another crippling injury during the drive, when senior two-way lineman Chuckie Anthony collapsed to the turf with an ankle injury and didn’t return.
It was the second starting offensive lineman the Sailors lost in as many weeks, with guard Jacob Dethloff suffering a leg injury against Portage Central last Friday.
Despite the huge disparity in yardage, Forest Hills Central coach Tim Rogers felt fortunate his squad was only down 14-7 at the half.
“It was huge,” he said. “We didn’t do much to stop their run game throughout that first half, so it was key that we found a way to stay within striking distance.
“Coach Koziak definitely outcoached me in the first half, but we made some adjustments and got more people closer in the box to try to stop their run game.”
The third quarter belonged to the Rangers, who outscored Mona Shores 21-0. They rolled down the field on their opening drive to tie the game on a 16-yard pass from Majick to junior Cameron Deines.
But the key play occurred when FHC senior Kade Shomin took a risk and stepped in front of a short route thrown by Sailors quarterback Tristan Robbins. Shomin picked off the pass and returned it 35 yards to the end zone to give the Rangers their first lead at 21-14.
Mona Shores stalled on its next two drives, and with seconds remaining in the third, Majick connected with Tate Hallock on a 73-yard touchdown pass.
Hallock, the son of former Detroit Lions’ fullback Ty Hallock, had 123 of his 130 yards receiving in the third quarter.
Mona Shores didn’t go out quietly. The Sailors turned in an impressive 80-yard drive that was finished off by Dent’s second touchdown run with 8:36 to play in the fourth, cutting their deficit to 28-21.
But the Sailors — who were hampered by several illegal procedure penalties in the second half — couldn’t find the necessary big plays down the stretch to score an equalizer.
They were forced to pooch punt with four minutes to play, and the Rangers drained the clock down to just 14 seconds before the Sailors got the ball back.
Their last play, a wide receiver pass by Keyshawn Summerville, was picked off, setting off a frantic Rangers’ celebration.
Mona Shores had 480 total yards of offense, keyed by senior quarterback Tristan Robbins. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 151 yards and also ran 17 times for 108 yards. Davis led the ground attack with 133 yards on 17 carries.
Defensively, Flowers had both of the Sailors’ two interceptions, each coming in the first half.
In an emotional postgame locker room, Koziak let each of the Sailor seniors speak to the team.
“Sometimes you feel you don’t tell them that you love them enough,” Koziak said. “But how can you not love kids who pour everything they have into the program? That’s the definition of love; having the kids buy in and do what you ask. That’s all they’ve ever done.”