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Lowell rebounds from loss with 41-21 win over FH Central


After being uncharacteristically swallowed up at Caledonia a week ago, Lowell was charged with refocusing for nearby OK White rival Forest Hills Central.

A Ranger football team which defeated Caledonia 31-19 in week three.

“I was a little concerned with what the mind set of our young football team would be after that loss to Caledonia,” admitted Lowell football coach Noel Dean following his club’s 41-21 win over Forest Hills Central Friday night on Bob Perry Field.

What Dean’s Red Arrows did was reestablish the pillars of Lowell football during Dean’s tenure.

Lowell ran the ball well. It churned up 205 yards on the ground. It complimented its ground game with efficient passing, completing 10-of-14 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns. All of this while its defense, after surrendering two first-quarter touchdowns, silenced the pass-happy Rangers until mid way through the fourth quarter.

“Our running and passing games complimented one another and our defense was strong ,” Dean said.

The win in the final game of the regular season improved Lowell’s record to 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the OK White. The Red Arrows finished tied for first with Caledonia, marking the second consecutive year Lowell has earned at least a share of the league title. Last year Lowell won it outright.

“It felt to good win another conference title,” Dean explained. “This was a good step forward. Now it’s time to continue to build on that.

Lowell will begin its 16th consecutive journey into the high school state football playoffs on Friday. It’s opponent will be announced Sunday night at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Detroit.

Red Arrow fans will notice a small variation to this year’s run for a state title. Lowell will compete in Division 3.

FHC drove 80 yards in eight play on its first possession to take a 7-0 lead. Brett Miller connected with Dylan Otolski on an 11-yard touchdown pass.

Lowell responded on the ensuing kickoff when Gabe Steed took the ball in on his own two-yard line and raced 98 yards for a touchdown. Lowell trailed 7-6 following a missed point after attempt.

The Rangers built on their first-series success as they marched 80-yards, this time in seven plays to extend their lead to 14-6. Miller found Matthew Mills this time for a 22-yard touchdown.

Lowell, again, had an answer. The Red Arrows engineered an 80-yard drive of their own with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Stevens to Josh Branagan evening up the score. The two also  combined for the two-point conversion.

Second quarter touchdown runs of five and two-yards by Max Dean enabled Lowell to build a 28-14 halftime lead. Dean finished the game with 109 yards rushing.

Neither club scored in the third quarter, however, Lowell did tally its fifth touchdown of the night early in the fourth quarter when Trevor Shurlow busted one in from the two-yard line.

Lowell added its final score on the night with a little less than two minutes on the clock when Stevens found Steed on a 12-yard pass-and-catch.

Central’s only second half score came in the final 12 minutes when Miller teamed up with Otolski for their second touchdown of the night.

FHC threw for 279 yards and rushed for just 25. The Rangers finished the season at 2-7 overall and 2-3 in the OK White.

Caledonia methodically devours Lowell, 33-0

Many chuckled when Lowell coach Noel Dean proclaimed earlier in the week that his Red Arrow football team had no chance for victory against Caledonia.

Those chuckles were replaced by dropped jaws Friday night as they watched the Fighting Scots methodically devour Lowell 33-0 at Ralph Myers Memorial Stadium.

“Caledonia is awesome. They are well coached and a really good football team,” Dean explained afterwards. “I have nothing but respect for their players and coaching staff.”

A couple of things were very clear following Caledonia’s victory. One, the Fighting Scots are peaking at the right time (heading into the playoffs) and two, senior running back Eddie Kelly is an elite football player.

“When Eddie decides he wants to play, he is as good a football player as there is in West Michigan,” said Caledonia coach Tom Burrill.

The coach’s lofty praise may still have shorted Kelly following his performance against Lowell. The senior rushed for 175 yards, caught three passes for 142 yards and scored two touchdowns.

The win vaulted Caledonia  (3-1, 6-2) into a tie with Lowell (3-1, 7-1) atop the O-K White. The Fighting Scots finish the regular season at Grand Rapids Christian on Friday. The Eagles (2-2, 5-3) were grounded by East Grand Rapids (2-2, 5-3) 31-7 Friday night.

Lowell will travel to Forest Hills Central (2-2, 2-6).

Caledonia scored on its first possession. Starting from its own six yard line, the Fighting Scots marched 94 yards in seven running plays with Logan Soule capping the drive with a one-yard touchdown burst.

Caledonia made it 14-0 at the start of the second quarter when Tanner Christian connected with Kelly on an 83-yard touchdown pass.

The Scots added their third touchdown of the half when Christian snuck one in from one yard out  giving Caledonia a 20-0 advantage.

Lowell’s defense which was never able to stop the Caledonia veer generated ground game in the first half, kept the Scots off the scoreboard on their first three possessions of the second half.

“I was happy with the way out kids came out in the second half and played,” Dean said,

Meanwhile, the Red Arrows while able to move the ball some on the ground, never found a rhythm to their passing game and thus were never able to finish any of their drives.

Caledonia’s two second half touchdowns came in the fourth quarter on a 30-yard touchdown reception by Kelly and a five yard touchdown run by Jalen Burton.

“It feels real good to get a win against Lowell. Our seniors have taken this team on their backs. It’s a special group of players,” Burrill said.

Lowell secures playoff berth with 20-12 win over GR Christian

Qualifying for the MHSAA football playoffs doesn’t get old. Lowell, with its 20-12 win over Division 3 power and OK White Conference foe Grand Rapids Christian, secured its spot in the post season for a 16th straight season.

“Some schools may take it for granted, but making the playoffs is  still special,” said Lowell football coach Noel Dean.

The Red Arrows got  two defensive scores from its tenacious defense and still needed a stop in the final  three  minutes of play to secure its sixth win of the year and its second league victory.

“It’s nice to have East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Christian in our rear view mirror,” Dean noted.”However, we still have some big games ahead of us.”

Lowell travels to Jenison on Friday before ending the season with road games against Forest Hills Central and Caledonia.

The Fighting Scots are 4-2, 1-1 after a 44-6 win against Jenison. FHC is 1-5, 1-1 following a 10-0 loss to EGR Friday night.

The Red Arrows scored first at Bob Perry Field when Ryan Stephens found a wide-open Josh Branagan on a 23-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter.

Lowell extended its lead to 14-0 later in the quarter when junior Gabe Steed intercepted a Christian pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.

The Eagles answered right before half on a 19-yard scoring strike from Lucas Thompson to Alex Bos. The extra point was missed, sending to the two clubs into half with Lowell leading 14-6.

The Eagles pulled to within two at 14-12 on a 24-yard pass in third quarter from Thompson to Bos. The two-point conversion failed.

It remained a two-point game until Lowell sacked Thompson in the Eagle end zone, forcing a fumble with Red Arrow Austin Hoekstra falling on it for a touchdown. The extra point was missed, giving Lowell a 20-12 lead.

“The touchdown sort of hurt hurt us. it gave Christian one final chance,” Dean explained. “Our defense, though, scored 13 points. I’m proud of its effort.”

As was Red Arrow middle linebacker Max Dean. “Our defense came up big. It played tough.” Dean was not only pivotal in helping Lowell carry out its defensive scheme, but also led Lowell in rushing.

“It’s not a time for tired, this was a big game and a big win as it qualified us for the playoffs.”

The game was marred by an injury to Eagle starting quarterback Patrick Hall. “My heart sunk for Hall,” Dean said.

Thrower leads Muskegon past Lowell, 28-21, in district championship game

Prior to Friday night’s district championship football game Muskegon football coach Shane Fairfield called it the state championship game before the state championship game.

This would explain why he labeled the Big Reds 28-21district championship  victory over Lowell on Bob Perry Field one of the best wins of his career.

The last time Fairfield made such a sweeping comment was one year ago following Muskegon’s 15-13 district championship win over the Red Arrows.

“To come in here to Lowell and to redeem a loss to a club who beat us earlier in the season – I’m so proud of this group of guys,” Fairfield said. “They made a commitment to film, film study and game cards. They knew to win here tonight they would have to play well and they wanted the  challenge”

The two teams have now met six straight years in the district final. The winner has advanced to the state championship game in each of those years. The Big Reds are now two wins away from a return to Ford Field. However, first Muskegon must take care of business against Midland on Saturday.

Lowell quarterback Kyler Shurlow who threw for over 1900 yards and ran for over 900 during the regular season was held to a minus one yard rushing and 279 yards through the air on 40 attempts.

“Our offense really put our defense in a jam. We weren’t able to get anything going consistently,” Lowell football coach Noel Dean said. “Muskegon played a whale of a game. They were pretty good.”

The two defenses held their ground through the first 12 minutes of play before Muskegon broke through early in the second quarter on a 62-yard touchdown pass from Deshaun Thrower to Justin Foster.

A Lowell turnover moments later set the Big Reds up at the Red Arrow 34 yard line. On the first play, Thrower followed his blocks around the right side and raced 34 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 Muskegon lead.

The Big Reds returned the favor when it turned the ball over at midfield with a little under 10 minutes to play n the second quarter. Lowell made Muskegon pay as it took seven plays with Shurlow finding Jeff Houston in the end zone on a fourth down and six, cutting the deficit to 14-7.

It remained 14-7 until midway through the third quarter when Thrower connected with William Roberrson on a 44-yard touchdown pass up the Big Reds sideline.

Thrower threw for 159 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 107.

Lowell trimmed the deficit back to seven (21-14) early in the fourth quarter when Shurlow found Ben Bigham on an 18-yard corner route in the end zone.

Muskegon, though, wasn’t to be denied, as it responded with a five-play, 37 yard touchdown drive capped off with a one-yard burst from Javauntae Thomas.

Lowell looked as though it would answer as it had a first and 10 art the Big Reds 26 on its very next possession, however, an interception stalled the drive at the Muskegon 21.

On Lowell’s next possession, still trailing by two scores, the Red Arrows drove to the Muskegon 11 before a turnover ended that scoring threat.

“Four turnovers are not going to help you get over a team that good,” Dean said. “Muskegon played well and deserved to win. They showed up to play. Muskegon is well coached  and did a nice job.”

Lowell’s final score of the night came in the final seconds of play on a 19-yard  pass from Shurlow to Houston.

For Dean it means saying goodbye to a senior class that he first started to watch as tots. It is also one that includes his oldest son Kanon.

“What can I say to this group except thanks. There were a lot of good things that happened and we had a lot of fun.,” Dean explained. “It was a great year. I wish things could have turned out better, but it is what it is.”

Lowell overcomes Sailors’ fast start in 34-24 pre district win

A combined record of 31-5 made this Division 2 region arguably the toughest region in the state.

The results in week one of the playoffs, however, were not as difficult  to predict. Pick the two schools who have done it before. Pick two schools whose programs have shared much success over a sustained period of time. Pick the two schools who had already met in the district or regional finals for five straight years.

For the sixth straight year Lowell (10-0) and Muskegon (9-1) will strap it up against one another in the post season following the Big Reds 49-14 pre district win over Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (7-3) and Lowell’s 34-34 win over Muskegon Mona Shores (7-3).

For there Red arrows it marked their 15th straight playoff appearance.

Conversely, Mona Shores was appearing in its first high school football playoff game in school history, however, to start the game the Sailors played more like a club that’s been there before. The Sailors shocked the second ranked Division 2 Red Arrows by scoring two touchdowns in the opening  seven minutes to take a 12-0 lead.

“I’m proud of our kids. They played an unbelievable football team. Lowell is good year in and year out. “I’d like to think our kids gave them everything they could handle. We just made too many mistakes,” said Mona shores coach Matt Koziak.

Mona Shores first score came in its opening drive on a 12-yard run by Hunter Broersma.

After holding Lowell to three plays and a punt on its opening possession, Mona Shores was back at it as Deontay Moffett raced 38 yards for a touchdown, giving the Sailors a 12-0 lead. Mona Shores missed both of its extra points.

The 9-0 Red Arrows showed their playoff mettle as it marched 65 yards in eight plays on a 13-yard touchdown run by Trevor Shurlow.

Lowell grabbed its first lead of the game early in the second quarter when Kyle Shurlow found Gabe Snead on a 44-yard touchdown pass, giving Lowell a 13-12 advantage.

The Sailors would regain the lead minutes later when Tyree Jackson hit Marquon Sargent on a 60-yard scoring play, giving Mona Shores an 18-13 lead.

The Red Arrows answered right before the half when it was Shurlow to Snead again on a 29-yard touchdown pass giving Lowell a 20-18 halftime lead.

Lowell took the opening kick of the second half and marched 69 yards with Snead striking for a third time, this time on a 35-yard touchdown pass. The score extended Lowell’s advantage to nine at 27-18.

“He s a fun little guy to coach. Gabe is a slippery, elusive fellow,” said Lowell coach Noel Dean said. “He brings a different element to our receiving corps.”

Two plays after stopping Lowell on fourth and goal from the three, the Sailors struck on a 96-yard touchdown pass to the Western Michigan-bound Brown, pulling Mona Shores to within three at 27-24. The extra point was missed.

The offensive explosion continued as Lowell answered on its next possession with a 20-yard touchdown run by Kanon Dean. Lowell led 34-24.

“Mona Shores is a fantastic team. Hats off to Matt Koziak. He’s done at Mona Shores what no one has ever been able to do,” Dean conlcuded.




Lowell ‘nicks’ GR Christian in double overtime thriller, 35-34

Red Arrow senior wideout Benjamin Bigham caught eight passes (132 yards) and scored a touchdown in Lowell’s electrifying 35-34 double overtime win against Grand Rapids Christian Friday night at Lowell Memorial Field on Bob Perry Field.
And yet, around Saturday morning’s coffee table his name is being remembered for his tipped pass (not any catch) during Lowell’s late, game-tying drive in regulation against the Eagles.
“The defender was pressuring me down field and held me. I saw the ball and was able to nick it with my hand,” Bigham recalled afterward.
The result was the deflected pass went into the waiting arms of sophomore Gabe Steed who powered his way to the Grand Rapids Christian 15 before being taken down. Two plays later on second and seven from the 12, senior running back Kanon Dean powered it into the end zone on a 12-yard run tying the contest at 21-21.
“We made some adjustments in the fourth quarter and that running play worked ,” Lowell football coach Noel Dean said.
Steed would not have suited up for the contest pitting the number one team in Division III against Lowell (number 2 in Division II) except the Eagles did not field JV and freshmen teams.
“Grand Rapids Christian doesn’t have a (junior varsity team), so we called him up for this game. He was one of many parts that helped us win tonight. We don’t win this without him,” Dean said. ‘I’m also really proud of Ben (Bigham) he had a great game and has had a really great senior year.”
Steed also caught the game winning 10-yard touchdown pass in the second overtime.
Trailing 21-14 with less than four minutes to play a Kyler Shurlow pass was tipped by Bigham (intended receiver) and pulled out of the air by Steed for a 54-yard reception.
The game, however, was decided in the second overtime when Christian coach Don Fellows chose to go for two and the win after Eagle quarterbackTyler Sigler busted into the end zone on a quarterback keeper.
“I had enough at that time,” Fellows said. “At the end there, you have three yards to beat one of the best programs in the state on their home field, and we came just a yard short. Our kids feel bad about losing, but this was a pretty special game against one of the state’s best football teams.”
Christian took the lead in the first overtime on a touchdown pass from Sigler to Dominic Paiz. Lowell tied the contest at 28-28 moments later when Shurlow connected with Bigham on a 10-yard touchdown pass-and-catch.
Lowell regained the lead on its next possession when Dean again ran it in, this time from the four yard line.
Lowell scored first in this battle for O-K White supremacy when Shurlow found Bigham on a 37-yard pass down the Lowell sideline in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
It remained 7-0 until right before halftime when Sigler, on fourth and 20, found Dwayne Barfield on a 32-yard scoring strike, tying the game at 7-7.
The Eagles took their first lead (14-7) of the night at the start of the third quarter when Sigler tossed a 62-yard touchdown pass to Sam Kuiper.
Dean tied the game early in the fourth quarter when he scored his first of three touchdowns on a three-yard scoring run.
Grand Rapids Christian responded quickly. Sigler found Barfield on a 51-yard touchdown strike, giving the Eagles a 21-14 advantage. Sigler finished the game with 184 yards passing (11-of-23) and three touchdowns. The Eagles ran for 95 yards.

Lowell’s Shurlow finished the game with 318 yards and a touchdown pass.With the win, Lowell claims sole possession of in first place of the OK White Conference with a 4-0 league mark and 8-0 overall record.The Eagles, the two-time defending OK White champion and reigning Division 3 state champs, fall to 3-1 in the league and 6-2 overall.

Lowell dodges EGR’s upset bid, Red Arrows win 42-39 in four overtimes


Two of the best football programs in the state of Michigan added a classic for their history books Friday night at Memorial Field in East Grand Rapids as Lowell, the number one team in Division 2, survived a four overtime thriller against the Pioneers, 42-39.
“It was an unbelievable game, ” emphasized EGR football coach Peter Stuursma. “Our kids battled their tails off on both sides of the ball. This is what a rivalry is, mark that down.”
While it may be remembered as a classic, Lowell Red Arrow football coach Noel Dean was not ready to call it a typical Lowell/EGR football game at Memorial Field. “It wasn’t a typical game played here, because we won,” Dean quipped as he left Memorial Field following a game-winning, 10-yard touchdown pass from Kyler Shurlow to Kyle Blough on first down of its fourth possession in overtime.
The score followed the Red Arrows’ defense stopping the Pioneers on four consecutive pass plays from the 10 yard line.
“It wasn’t easy. It took a full team effort,” Shurlow concurred. “East ran an awesome defense scheme against us tonight. Our final score was one of our favorite go-to plays.”
The Pioneer defense kept the high-powered Lowell offense under wraps in regulation with the exception of two plays.
Shurlow broke through a Pioneer defense, on the first playoff the game, for a 94-yard touchdown run.
Then, trailing 19-15 and facing a fourth-and-six from the its own 24 yard line, Shurlow found Ben Bigham on a sideline route. The senior receiver, skipped past a defender and raced 76-yards for a go-ahead score (22-19).
However, the score left three minutes for the Pioneer senior backup quarterback Peter Stewart. It was more than enough time. Stewart connected on throws of 13 and 22 yards, taking the ball down to the Lowell 15. Three plays later on a third and 16 from the Lowell 21, Stewart found Jack Faulkner at the six yard line, setting up a game-tying 24-yard field from Noah Salasky with 54 seconds to play.
“Peter is the most capable quarterback a coach could ask for to replace your starter. He’s a senior, athletic and a leader. Tonight he made plays,” Stuursma said.
Both clubs missed field goal attempts in the opening overtime. Lowell from 25 yards and East from 32 yards.
The Pionners took a short-lived lead in the second overtime when Steward found Tre’Shown Fields in the end zone on a first-and-10 from the Red Arrow 10 yard line. Lowell tied it at 29-29 moments later on a seven-yard burst from Kanon Dean.
Lowell grabbed the lead back in the third overtime on a pass-and-catch from Shurlow to Bigham. East answered with a six-yard, scoring pass from Stewart to Drew Hollerbach.
Lowell’s offense never seemed fully in sync against the Pioneers, while its defense struggled to slow down Stewart and company’s air attack.
“I don’t think it’s anything we did or didn’t do. I think East had a lot to do with it. That’a good football program and a team that grew up tonight. Add to it that Peter (Stuursma) had one full week to work to get ready for us,” Dean explained.
Lowell’s two other scores in the first half came on a safety and a 31-yard touchdown from Shurlow to Bigham with 2:13 left to play in the half.
East’s only touchdown came at the 6:17 mark of the first quarter when Stewart found Fields for 45 yards and a score.
The Pioneers, trailing 15-6 at halftime, opened the third quarter with a 67-yard scoring drive capped off by a 37-yard touchdown pass from Steward to Fields.
East took its first lead (19-15) of the game on a three-yard run by David Evans Jr. The two-point conversion was no good.
The win improved Lowell to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the O-K White, qualifying the Red Arrows for the post-season playoff.
East is now 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the league..
“You always ask for a chance to win the game and we had that chance,” East Grand Rapids coach Peter Stuursma said. “I’m proud of our kids. We kept battling.”
Katie McIntosh, a kindergarden teacher at East’s Lakeside Elementary, is a breast cancer survivor and the sister of EGR football coach Peter Stuursma.
The East student body wore pink Friday night at its homecoming in honor of McIntosh. Lowell responded in support as its visiting bleachers were a sea of pink.
“It’s special that the kids wanted to do it,” an emotional Stuursma said. “It was a class act by our students and the same for Lowell’s students.”



Lowell charges past FHC 48-7

Not sure of his club’s physche following a big win over Muskegon the previous week, Lowell football coach Noel Dean tested it early Friday night at Forest Hills Central.
He liked the response.
Lowell, in its first possession of the game was at risk of going three plays and a punt, instead Dean chose to to go for it on fourth and two. The Red Arrows picked up the needed yards and then proceeded to complete a 12-play, 83-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. Tyler Shurlow completed the drive with a three-yard touchdown run.
It was the first of six first-half touchdown as Lowell raced to a 42-0 halftime en route to posting a 48-7 win. With the victory Lowell improved its record to 5-0. The Red Arrows will travel to East Grand Rapids on Friday.
Lowell increased its lead to 14-0 late in the first quarter when Jake Stephens returned a fumble 50 yards for a touchdown.
Lowell recorded four second-quarter touchdowns on a 21-yard pass from Shurlow to Josh Bearup; a nine-yard scoring pass to Josh Branagan and a three-yard run by Shurlow.
Lowell’s final score of the half came on a 17-yard pass-and-catch from Shurlow to Ben Bigham.
Ben Bigham capped the Red Arrow scoring with a 74-run by Bigham in the fourth quarter.



Determined offensive play, defensive swagger pace Lowell to win over No.1 Muskegon, 31-20

Dylan Brower brought the swagger and Lowell, ranked third,  was as good as it was determined in posting an impressive 31-20 win over Muskegon, the number one ranked football team in Division 2.

“Muskegon is one of the biggest games on our schedule. They are a  really good football team . This one meant a lot and we wanted it (a victory),” Brower explained afterwards. The senior running back/linebacker ran for 69 yards and was a key piece in the Red Arrows’ defensive effort in containing an explosive Big Reds offense.

“It’s nice to have Dylan back. He was out last year with a broken leg. Dylan brings a defensive swagger to our running game,” said Lowell football coach Noel Dean.

That swagger is one of power and deceptive speed (faster than he appears). “You could say that,” Brower said with a concurring grin.

Brower and his defensive mates held Muskegon to 88 yards rushing. More importantly, the Red Arrow defense took the burners out of the Muskegon jet sweep. The Big Reds explosive backs were never able to turn the corner and go vertical for any distance against Lowell.

Lowell’s play on offense was determined and nearly flawless in execution. Senior quarterback Kyler Shurlow ran for 105 yards, threw for 125 and and scored three touchdowns.

“We have something special here. He made reads and his decision making was good,” Dean said. “This senior class is also special  – 15 of them are in the top 50 of their class. It’s an intelligent group and one I’ve been around since they were in  elementary school.  I’ve been around them from Tonka Toys to playing varsity football. I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve enjoyed the character they’ve displayed and the way they go about things.”

The loss marked the fourth consecutive week ( Grand Rapids Christian, Grand Haven, Rockford) and now Lowell that the Big Reds have faced strong football programs.

“They’ve had a lot of big moments in big games with this schedule,” said Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield. “Now they will get the breather they need.”

Lowell took the opening kickoff and marched 70 yards as Kanon Dean capped the drive with a 20-yard touchdown run, giving the Red Arrows a 6-0 lead following a missed extra point.

Muskegon answered moments later when DeShaun Thrower found Justin Foster over the middle for 48 yards and a touchdown.

Trailing 7-6, Lowell took four  minutes off the clock as Shurlow led the Red Arrows 75 yards. He completed the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Josh Branagan.

After a Big Reds fumble at their own 29 on their next possession, Lowell took eight plays with Shurlow busting into the end zone from the one yard out, extending Lowell’s lead to 20-7.

John Hall pulled Muskegon to with six (20-14) with a 15-yard touchdown run to open the second half.

Lowell stemmed the tide as it answer with a 65-yard touchdown drive. Shurlow scored from the three yard line making it 28-14 with a two-point conversion pass to Grant Peterson.

The Red Arrows added a 33 yard field goal by Austin Bieri in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 17 at 31-14.

Muskegon’s final score of the night came from its defense when William Hunt picked up a fumble and raced into the end zone from 29 yards out.

“This is just one game. We’re one game closer to hosting a playoff game,” Dean concluded.


St. Johns dominant wrestling run continues with 42-20 Division II championship win over Lowell

Tom Lehman, a member of the National Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame, saw his share of outstanding wrestling teams in his 37 years as coach at Middleville Thornaopple-Kellogg.

One of those may very well have been his 1996 state championship Trojan squad, however, the former Middleville coach doesn’t remember seeing one as dominant as St. Johns.

“There have been a number of great teams, but we’ve never seen a team be so dominant for as long (four years) as St. John’s has been,” Lehman said.

The Redwings supported Lehman’s comment, by capturing a fourth-consecutive Division II state title, Saturday at the Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek with a 42-20 shellacking of Lowell.

“It means a lot to rebound from last year (graduation losses) It’s a relief to be able to keep things going. A couple of quick pins early got us rolling,” said St. Johns’ wrestling coach Derek Phillips. “That helps make things easier for the other guys.”

Redwings Jason Schmidt (130) and Logan Massa (135) logged back-to back pins in less than a combined minute of mat time to stake St. Johns to a 12-0 lead.

Lowell’s Jordan Hall briefly stopped the bleeding with an 8-7 decision against Redwing Mark Bozzo. The Redwing force of five that followed were too strong and too good good. Ben Whitford (145) and Drew Wixson (152) of their Red Arrow counterparts, expanding St. Johns’ lead to 24-3.

Josh Pennel then recorded a 5-0 decision, pushing the score to 27-3.

It ballooned to 31-3 when former Lowell wrestler, Angus Arther dominated Kanon Dean at 171 pounds, with an 18-5 major decision. Arthur, who was booed by some Lowell fans prior to the match, taunted them following his victory. The display cost his team a point for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“This rivalry is personal for half of their wrestlers and  the other half wrestle with class which is what it should be. It always seems like a carnival, but it is what it is.” said Lowell wrestling coach Dave Dean. “St. Johns got us in a lot of different ways. They are obviously a very talented team that has worked very hard. We showed up to compete, however, and I am very pleased with the way our young team performed. We are building on some good foundation.”

Payne Hayden (189) upped the Lowell deficit to 36-3 with a pin over Pierce watson (2:41) before the Red Arrows found some traction and posted five consecutive victories of their own.

Garett Stehley (215) decisioned Blake Cooper 7-0; Taylor Kornoely (285) defeated Ben Proctor 10-6; Lucas Hall (103) bettered Ian Parker 11-5; Derek Krajewski (112) posted an 11-3 major decision against Derek Droste; and Zeth Dean (119) claimed a13-1 major decision over Dillon Cornell, completing a 17-0 run and cutting the deficit to 36-20.

In the final match of the state championship St. Johns’ Zac Hall pinned Bailey jack in 41 seconds of the first period.

“Our guys are really emotional and passionate about this sport,” Phillips explained. “A team like Lowell brings that out. That’s a program that has long tradition of good wrestling.”

The first-year coach has studied his history. Lowell has been in the team wrestling state finals nine of the last 15 years. Three of those visits produced state championships.

The Red Arrows advanced to the state finals with a 31-26 win over Niles. St Johns, meanwhile, punished Allegan 64-6.

In the quarterfinals on Friday night, Lowell upended former O-K White rival, Greenville, 38-25.