MUSKEGON (6-1) AT MONA SHORES (7-0)
MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The Mona Shores football team has overcome its share of adversity this season with injuries to key players.
Sailors coach Matt Koziak pointed to one key factor in being able to persevere en route to an unbeaten 7-0 record and lofty state ranking.
“It’s nice to have a lot of senior leadership,” Koziak said. “The more experience you have, when bad things do happen, you have a little more confidence to overcome that.
“We’ve had quarterback injuries, a couple other injuries, and kids that don’t play a significant amount of time stepped up and filled roles,” he continued. “We’re very fortunate and it’s a tribute to our kids that we’re still able to play well even through injuries.”
Mona Shores hasn’t been challenged this season, but that is expected to change as it hosts state-ranked and perennial powerhouse Muskegon on Friday.
The Sailors defeated the Big Reds last season for the first time since 1982, and an O-K Black Conference title is at stake as Mona Shores attempts to make two in a row.
“We’re both successful this year and it’s a great for the community,” Koziak said. “Last year was a big game and this year it’s another big game. There’s an O-K Black championship at stake, bragging rights and it’s just fun. If you like high school football then this is the place to be.”
Muskegon has won six in a row since dropping its home opener. The Big Reds are averaging 42 points per game and are eager to avenge last year’s loss.
“We’re used to big games and the big stage and it’s always a compliment to our kids,” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said. “It’s one of the biggest games in the state, and hats off to the guys on the other side of Sherman (Blvd). They are buying into to what they’re trying to do as a program and it’s a great thing for high school football and the Muskegon County area. We’re excited to be in this game of the week.”
Mona Shores possesses a bevy of talent on offense across the board. Tyler Trovinger is back at quarterback after missing two games with an ankle injury. A stable of speedy receivers and the play of leading rusher and tackler Dom Shermeta has helped the Sailors score points at an alarming rate while shutting down opposing teams.
“We asked the state if we can play 14 or 15 guys on defense,” Fairfield joked. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. They have so much talent, like us, and we hope to minimize their big plays and match their speed. We’ll find out how battle-tested we are.”
Despite Mona Shores’ high-powered offense, Muskegon’s defense is geared to contain the Sailors’ multiple playmakers.
“We have to counter their aggressive defense,” Koziak said. “They are so good. They are fast and physical, but it’s a disciplined aggressive. We have to slow that down.”
Muskegon junior quarterback Kalil Pimpleton is another cause for concern. He has combined for more than 1,400 yards of total offense with 19 touchdowns on the ground and through the air.
“He’s exciting, he’s explosive and he’s a tough kid pound-for-pound,” Koziak said.
Muskegon leads the all-time series 27-6.
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EAST GRAND RAPIDS (5-2) AT LOWELL (6-1)
Game time: 7 p.m.
Outlook: Since losing a rare season opener on Aug. 28, the Lowell Red Arrows have been one of the most dominant teams in the area.
Lowell enters Friday’s rivalry game against East Grand Rapids on a six-game winning streak and has an opportunity to clinch a share of the O-K White Conference title
The state-ranked Red Arrows qualified for the state playoffs for the 17th consecutive season with a 47-19 victory over Forest Hills Central last week.
During their impressive streak, the Red Arrows have racked up a combined 279 points and shut out three opponents. They’ve allowed only 47 points in the past six games after giving up 42 in their opener.
Lowell is led by running back Max Dean, quarterback Ryan Stevens and wide receiver Gabe Steed. The Pioneers counter with quarterback Jon Olsson, running backs Matt Solberg and Bryce Henkey and wide receiver Mike Clifford.
This will be the 48th meeting between the two longtime rivals. East Grand Rapids leads the all-time series with a 33-14 record, although the Pioneers haven’t beaten Lowell since 2010.
It will be the final time that the two schools square off in the O-K White as East Grand Rapids moves to the O-K Gold next season.
CEDAR SPRINGS (5-2) AT FOREST HILLS EASTERN (7-0)
Game time: 7 p.m.
Outlook: The Forest Hills Eastern Hawks are off to their best start in school history after avoiding an upset last week against Wyoming.
The Hawks will face its toughest test against Cedar Springs, which has won three in a row after the return of quarterback Collin Alvesteffer. Both teams are 3-0 in the O-K Bronze with the winner clinching a share of the conference title.
The Hawks are looking for their first conference crown, while the Red Hawks are the defending conference champs.
Forest Hills Eastern, which had four straight losing seasons before this year, has been led by first-year quarterback and dual-threat Jack Clark.
Caden Peters is the team’s leading rusher, while Ryan Knight and Chase Krueger have paced the receiving corp.
The Red Hawks, who can clinch their second playoff berth in a row, have been sparked by running back Cameron Umphrey.