By Tom Kendra
But Warren DeLaSalle had superior execution – using a combination of running and passing from junior quarterback Sante Gasparoni and superior line play – to outscore Muskegon, 40-28, in a non-league matchup of state powerhouses in front of 6,000 fans at Hackley Stadium.
Muskegon, which got almost nothing going last week in a 27-7 loss to Rockford, looked like it might avenge that loss this week, especially when senior quarterback M’Khi Guy broke through off left tackle and sprinted 92 yards for a touchdown, giving his team a 28-27 lead midway through the third quarter.
Instead, it was DeLaSalle which scored the final 13 points of the game, on a 12-yard pass from Gasperoni to Skyler Hunter and a 21-yard Gasparoni run, to pull out the huge road win.
“We had too many missed blocking assignments,” said Guy, who led all rushers with 15 carries for 205 yards, including TD runs of 80 yards and 92 yards. “In the upcoming games, we need to eliminate those mistakes and be positive and more consistent on offense.”
Muskegon finds itself at 0-2 for the first time since 1999, and will look to regroup at home next week against Holland, before back-to-back rivalry road games at Mona Shores and Reeths-Puffer.
The good news for Muskegon on Friday was that it was able to show its explosiveness on the two long runs by Guy and an electrifying, 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Destin Piggee just before halftime.
Guy also threw a perfect, 18-yard scoring pass to De’Carion Taylor in the first quarter.
The bad news is that was the only pass that Guy completed the entire game. In addition, the Big Reds’ huge offensive line was unable to consistently open up running room for Guy and senior halfback Jakob Price.
Muskegon finished with a 228-185 edge in rushing yards, but the difference in the game was the balance of the DeLaSalle attack.
Gasparoni, a 6-3, 210-pound junior, completed 9-of-12 passes for 106 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed 18 times for 95 yards and three more TDs – having a hand in all six of the Pilots’ scores.
The win made for a happy homecoming for fourth-year DeLaSalle coach Dan Rohn, a 1989 Orchard View graduate who has led the Pilots to the Division 2 state championship game in each of his first three years as coach, including back-to-back titles the past two years.
It was nearly a must-win for the Pilots, who play perhaps the toughest schedule of any team in the state.
After an opening loss to Division 1 powerhouse Davison and Friday’s visit to Muskegon, DeLaSalle still has to play Detroit Catholic Central, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and three new Detroit Catholic League members from Toledo – Toledo Central Catholic, Toledo St. Francis de Sales and Toledo St. John’s Jesuit.
Aside from the big plays, DeLaSalle’s defense dominated the game. Defensive end Dewayne Williams led the Pilots with 10 tackles, linebacker Sam Wakula had nine stops and Kandakai Sherman and Jacob Turr each had five tackles.
Junior linebacker Darekeo Speech led Muskegon with eight tackles, Stanley Cunningham made seven stops, Taylor had six tackles and Marquise Hendricks and freshman Recarder Kitchen each had five stops.
Muskegon has moved up to Division 2 this fall, so there is a chance that the two schools could meet again in the playoffs.
The Big Reds, who started 3-2 last season (including a 49-16 loss at DeLaSalle) before winning eight games in a row to reach the Division 3 finals, remained positive after the hard-fought loss.
“I think we’re going to be good,” said Guy. “These are learning losses. I’m glad it’s early in the season.”