By Tom Kendra

GREENVILLE – M’Khi Guy started this season with many wondering if he was indeed the “guy” that should be the quarterback at Muskegon.

Guy is ending the season as the “man,” who is making the case that he should be included on the Mount Rushmore of all-time great Big Red quarterbacks – in the company of Earl Morrall, Kalil Pimpleton and his cousin, Cameron Martinez.

“He is a warrior,” Muskegon 13th-year coach Shane Fairfield said about his 5-8, 155-pound field general. “Look at what he did today. He read the defense flawlessly and was patient and took off when he had to, but then he was breaking tackles and carrying guys on his back and pushing the pile.

“It’s not a surprise to us, he has been doing it since 5th grade.”

Guy seemed oblivious to the blizzard going on around him Saturday afternoon at Greenville High School’s Legacy Field, running for six touchdowns and passing for another in Muskegon’s 49-21 rout of DeWitt in the Division 3 Semifinals.

Guy finished with 29 carries for 341 yards, for an average of 11.8 yards per attempt on a snowy, ice field surface. He also completed a 33-yard touchdown pass to fellow junior Destin Piggee.

The diminutive Guy (5-8, 155) – who is still just a junior – can add to his legacy in a big way next Saturday, when the Big Reds play familiar foe Detroit Martin Luther King in Michigan’s final high school football game of 2022 for the Division 3 state championship at 7:30 p.m. at Ford Field in Detroit.

It will be a matchup of contrasting styles between perhaps the state’s best running quarterback in Guy and the state’s best passing quarterback in King’s Dante Moore, a five-star recruit who has committed to Oregon.

The Muskegon-King matchup will be played in ideal, indoor conditions, a complete 180-degree difference from Saturday, with temperatures in the 20s, steady winds and snow coming at the rate of about 1 inch per hour.

“I told our team that if I have to stand out in the cold for two-and-a-half hours and the reward was a trip to Ford Field, I would gladly do it,” said Fairfield.

Muskegon (11-2) dominated from the start in spite of those conditions, using the same formula that worked so well in huge wins over Mona Shores and Zeeland West – stretching out the defense horizontally across the field to respect Jakob Price and Piggee, which then repeatedly opened up running lanes between the tackles for Guy to squirt through.

“My teammates blocked perfectly for me,” said Guy, the nephew of Muskegon Athletic Director Keith Guy. “They gave me space. I just had to find the open gap and use my speed.”

Guy broke loose for scoring runs of 54 yards and 17 yards in the first quarter, as Muskegon  built a 13-0 lead.

The second quarter was more of the same, with Guy adding TD runs of 27 yards and 10 yards. To add salt to the wound, he completed his scoring pass to Piggee with only 8 seconds left in the half, making it 35-0 at the break.

Guy’s stats at the half? Eighteen carries for 239 yards, with a 33-yard scoring pass.

“You can’t coach speed and they are blessed with a ton of kids who can really run,” said 24th-year DeWitt coach Rob Zimmerman, who coached at Spring Lake for three years in the early 1990s. “You can do this and that, but it’s just get the ball in the fast kid’s hands. I don’t know what you do to counter that.”

Muskegon dominated the line of scrimmage behind its two monstrous junior guards, Miguel Botello (6-4, 300) and Karl Brooks (6-3, 315). Other starters are senior tackle D’Andre Hudgins (6-3, 280), senior center Nickarri Lane (5-10, 257) and sophomore tackle N-Kye Wynn (6-4, 245).

Muskegon now holds a 3-1 edge in the all-time series against DeWitt, which had won the last meeting – 14-0 in the D3 Semifinals in the 2020 season.

Fairfield downplayed revenge as a motivation for his team coming into the game, instead citing that his team was focused on getting back to Ford Field after a two-year hiatus. The Big Reds advanced to the championship game seven times in eight years from 2012 to 2019 (only missing in 2015), winning the D3 title in 2017 over Farmington Harrison.

Fairfield, who made his mark as a defensive assistant coach at Muskegon under Tony Annese, lauded the play of his defense for setting the tone on Saturday.

DeWitt managed just 22 total yards in the first half, 11 rushing and 11 passing, and just one first down.

“Our kids wanted this game bad – they were very mentally prepared and ready,” said Fairfield, who has a 142-26 record as Muskegon’s coach. “We practiced indoors one day this week, on Wednesday, and they were mad about that. They knew what kind of weather was coming today and they were ready for it.

“We had a little bit of a letdown defensively there in the second half, but it’s hard to maintain that intensity all the way through, especially when you have a big lead.”

Senior strong safety Julian Neely was the ringleader of Muskegon’s defense on Saturday, setting the tone with a sack and forced fumble (which was ruled an incomplete pass) in the first quarter, an interception in the fourth quarter and seven tackles in-between. Sophomore linebackers Adrian Rankin and Darekeo Speech made eight and six tackles, respectively, while Chris Jones, Mason Hunter and CJ Ivy each had five stops.

The Panthers, who finished 9-4, finally figured out a way to move the ball in the second half, using short pop passes to receivers coming out of the backfield to get the Big Reds on their heels.

Bryce Kurncz, a 6-2, 175-pound senior who plays all over the field and entered the game with 1,349 rushing yards, was limited to 4 rushing yards in the first half. He caught three passes for 56 yards and got DeWitt on the scoreboard with a 4-yard run early in the third quarter.

The problem was, each time DeWitt scored in the second half, Guy answered right back with a scoring run of his own.

After Guy scampered in from 4 yards out to build Muskegon’s lead back to 42-7, junior Jensen Ridley hauled in a 57-yard pass from Elliott Larner to make it 42-14. Then Guy answered back with a 15-yard run to make it 49-21.

DeWitt closed out the scoring on a 1-yard run by Rece Baker.

“I’m super proud of this team, from where we were at the start of the season,” said Zimmerman, whose team rallied after finishing fourth in the six-team Capital Area Activities Conference Blue Division. “I’m not disappointed and I think it was a great season for us.”

Larner completed 4-of-5 passes for 138 yards to lead the Panthers. Landen Taber made a game-high 12 tackles, while Dylan Adkins had nine tackles.

Muskegon is also a very young team, starting seven underclassmen on offense and six on defense, which grew up quickly after a 3-2 start.

The Big Reds finished Saturday with a 452-78 edge in rushing yards and a 485-241 advantage in total yards. Price rushed 15 times for 106 yards.

All photos below are courtesy of LSJ photographer Tim Reilly