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.”