By Steve Gunn
It’s already showdown week in Muskegon area high school football.
The Mona Shores-Muskegon tilt features two teams from the same conference that both advanced to the state finals last year, and have enough talent to be state contenders again. But their immediate concern is the battle for the O-K Green conference title and local bragging rights.
The Montague-Oakridge contest is frequently a nail-biter, with many of the games in recent years being decided in the final minutes of regulation or overtime. The winner usually has the inside track to win the tough West Michigan Conference.
LocalSportsJournal.com will have full coverage each of those huge rivalry games, to sum up the action for the thousands of fans who would pack the stadiums, if only they were only allowed to.
Our third coverage game could have conference championship implications in the CSAA Silver Division. Traditional power Kent City visits the upstart Hesperia Panthers, who only had three wins last season – including one forfeit – but stunned everyone by pounding Lakeview last Friday in their season opener.
Check out the previews of our three coverage games below, then log on to LocalSportsJournal.com on Friday night for all the results from all the area games!
MONA SHORES (1-0) AT MUSKEGON (1-0)
The Mona Shores Sailors have probably had this game circled on the calendar for the past year, after the beating they took at the hands of the Big Reds last season.
Muskegon walked away with a stunning 53-0 victory in a game that was billed as a showdown between two state championship contenders. Of course the Sailors rebounded from that embarrassment and went on to win the Division 2 state title, while Muskegon finished runner-up in Division 3, but Mona Shores is still determined to avenge last year’s ugly loss.
It won’t be easy, because the Big Reds are loaded, as usual.
Muskegon opened the season with a 59-14 defeat of Holland in an O-K Green matchup. Backup quarterback Myles Walton, stepping in for starter Amari Crowley, had a huge night, rushing for four touchdowns and 133 yards on 11 carries, and completing four of five passes for 52 yards. Jacarri Kitchen rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown while Demetri Chapman had 89 yards and a touchdown.
The word is that Crowley will be back under center on Friday, but it’s clear that Muskegon does not have a depth problem at the QB position.
Muskegon has now won 35 straight regular season games, dating back to Sept. 2, 2016, when it lost to Lincolnshire-Stevenson, an elite Illinois squad, 38-35.
The Sailors came out of the gates with a big win, as well, pounding crosstown rival Reeths-Puffer 55-0 last week. Quarterback Brady Rose scored three touchdowns and ran for 113 yards. Backup quarterback Mark Konecny, who we will be seeing more of, threw two touchdown passes, totaled 79 yards through the air and ran for another 35.
Slot receiver Elijah Farnum had a huge first quarter, running for two TDs and catching a 58-yard touchdown pass. He finished with 58 yards receiving and 48 rushing.
The Big Reds have dominated the series with Mona Shores in recent seasons, winning the last four matchups. Mona Shores won in 2014 and 2015, just as it was emerging as an area power after years of mediocrity. Muskegon leads the all-time series 32-7.
So who is going to come out on top in this Clash of the Muskegon County Titans? It should be very interesting.
MONTAGUE (1-0) AT OAKRIDGE (1-0)
When it comes to thrilling finishes, this rivalry is second to none.
Last year Oakridge won in overtime 15-13, after stopping a Montague two-point conversion attempt to end the game.
The outcome sent the two teams in opposite directions in the regular season, with the Eagles going on to win the West Michigan Conference title and Montague finishing third. But in the playoffs Montague advanced all the way to the state semifinals while Oakridge lost in the second round.
There have been lots of thrilling finishes like last year between these two great programs. Montague won 25-24 in 2018, Oakridge won 31-28 in 2016, and Montague won 36-29 in 2015. Oakridge won 21-20 in 2011 and 27-26 in 2010.
Oakridge has won 6 of the last 10 matchups. The Eagles lead the all-time series 35-21.
Both teams are loaded again this season, and they showed it last week in a pair of dominant Week 1 victories.
Oakridge blasted Mason County Central in a conference matchup, 55-0. Junior running back Corey Vanderputte, taking over the featured back role from the graduated LeRoy Quinn, scored four touchdowns and rushed for 251 yards. Brendan Raymond rushed for two touchdowns and 51 yards while quarterback Ethen Dailey completed 5 of 8 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Montague beat Hart by the same score, 55-0.
Senior quarterback Drew Collins threw four touchdown passes, all in the first half, and finished with 14 completions for 75 yards. Running back Dylan Everett added 159 yards rushing on 14 carries with three touchdowns. Sam Smith also had a big night for Montague with 74 receiving yards, including two touchdowns.
There’s a lot of talent on both rosters, as usual, so this one should be another barnburner.
KENT CITY (1-0) AT HESPERIA (1-0)
Nobody was expecting very much from either of these teams this season, but they both got off to great starts with wins in Week 1.
Hesperia is hoping to keep the train rolling and post its first winning season since 2015, when the Panthers went 9-0 in the regular season and made the state playoffs. They were .500 the next season, and have had losing records for each of the past three years.
The Panthers’ opener against Lakeview last Friday – a resounding 34-7 victory – was certainly promising
Mack Baird rushed for 179 yards and two touchdowns for Hesperia, while quarterback Johnny Majersky carried the ball 15 times for 113 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Quinn and Kyle Pomeroy also found the end zone for the Panthers.
Hesperia had 460 yards of total offense, while holding Lakeview to just 107.
Kent City is a team that has refused to revert to rebuilding mode, despite the dire predictions of observers. The Eagles made the playoffs for three straight years, between 2016 and 2018, but graduated a lot of talent after 2018 and were expected to fall back last season. But a host of new starters rose to the challenge and got the team back into the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
This year Kent City had similar expectations, with only five regulars returning on offense and four on defense. But the Eagles are again off to a good start after last week’s 16-0 victory over archrival Morley Stanwood.
It was mostly a defensive win for Kent City, which forced three turnovers and never let the Morley Stanwood offense get untracked. Mason Westbrook was the leading rusher for the Eagles with 70 yards and a touchdown.
Hesperia and Kent City have played every season since 2014, with Kent City winning five of six, including last year’s 42-0 victory. Hesperia leads the all-time series 28-24-3.
OTHER FRIDAY GAMES
Fremont at Grant
Holland Christian at Fruitport
Grand Haven at Hudsonville
Hart at North Muskegon
Lakeview at Holton
Ravenna at Mason County Central
Shelby at Whitehall
Benton Harbor at Muskegon Catholic
Orchard View at Manistee
Reeths-Puffer at Holland
Shelby at Whitehall
Spring Lake at Coopersville