By Dave Tomczak
MUSKEGON – Friday night’s O-K Black Conference finale at Hackley Stadium was a chance for host Muskegon to cap off another perfect regular season before mounting a defense of its Division 3 state title.
For Reeths-Puffer, coming in with a 5-3 record, it was a final opportunity to clinch a state playoff spot.
But like everyone else who played the Big Reds this year, it did not end well for the Rockets.
Muskegon scored 27 unanswered second-half points and rolled to a 62-12 victory at home, improving to 9-0 on the season.
The Rockets fell to 5-4 and will await Sunday’s playoff selection show to see if they might sneak in.
The victory marked the 500th win for Muskegon at Hackley Stadium since it opened in 1907.
“Our offense is playing great, and expectations are really high (heading into the playoffs),” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said. “But right now I need to relax a bit and realize we’re 9-0 and enjoy it.”
Reeths-Puffer’s game plan was to pass and pass early. Unfortunately, quarterback Evan Moskwa’s first pass, on the first play of the game, was intercepted by Kolbe Lewis.
Muskegon fumbled four plays later, and the Rockets recovered, but were forced to punt. The Big Reds took the ensuing drive 68 yards, culminating in a Cameron Martinez touchdown run from six yards out. The PAT made it 7-0 lead with 7:32 left in the first quarter.
Reeths-Puffer put together a 13-play drive but was stopped at the Big Reds’ 16 on fourth down.
Muskegon scored quickly after that, when Jeremiah Lockhart ran 45 yards down the middle of the field to give his team a 14-0 lead with 1:41 left in the opening quarter.
The Rockets again put together a long drive, this time 11 plays, and again, faced a fourth down deep in Big Reds territory.
But this time R-P converted, when Moskwa hit Carter Fulton on an 8-yard TD strike, to cut the lead to 14-6 with 9:36 left in the second quarter.
Trying to catch the Big Reds off guard, Rockets coach Kyle Jewett called for the onside kick, which failed, giving the ball back to Muskegon at midfield.
“We’re realistic, and know the more possessions we have against this kind of team, the better chance we have to win,” the Rockets coach said. “We knew we’d have a tough time stopping them.”
Muskegon took advantage of the short field, and Brendan Rollenhagen’s one-yard score put the home team up 21-6 with 7:55 left in the half.
Lockhart scored from 3-yards out with 41 seconds left in the half to give Muskegon a 28-6 lead at the break.
Reeths-Puffer tried another onside kick to start the second half, failed again and gave the Big Reds the ball at the 49. Six plays later Demario Robinson scored on a 17-yard run for a 35-6 lead, with 9:31 left in the third.
Moskwa completed 4 of 4 passes on the ensuing drive, and connected with Daven Fox on a 44-yard TD pass to cut the lead to 35-12 with 8:31 left in the third quarter.
Moskwa finished the night 23 of 44 through the air for 276 yards, often finding his receivers open on short routes.
“They came right out and challenged us,” Fairfield said about the Rockets. “In coverage we were right there and just not making the play, or we’d blow a coverage. But everything is fixable, not time to panic about it.”
Muskegon finished off the third quarter with rushing touchdowns from Martinez (7 yards), Hyrosha Wilson (20 yards) and Rollenhagen (1 yard) for a 55-12 lead.
With their backups in for the fourth quarter, the Big Reds only scored once when quarterback Johnny Martin III found the end zone from four yards out with 10:07 left in the game.
Muskegon finished the game with 566 total yards of offense, including 513 on the ground.
Lockhart had 12 carries for 177 yards, Martinez had 15 carries for 151 yards and Robinson finished with five carries for 85 yards. Martinez also completed three of four passes for 53 yards.
Reeths-Puffer finished with 338 total yards. Moskwa rushed for 61 yards on nine carries. Fulton had 12 receptions for 142 yards and Fox finished with six catches for 98 yards.