LOWELL, Mich. (WOOD) — Few teams this season have been able to slow down Muskegon’s quick-strike offense.
The Lowell Red Arrows did just that Friday night and used a gritty defensive performance to carry them to a 36-7 victory over the Big Reds and a Division 2 regional championship.
Lowell (11-1) extended its winning streak to 11 games while denying Muskegon a shot at a fourth straight trip to Ford Field.
“That was really surprising to me, and I think our kids played a pretty nice game,” Red Arrows coach Noel Dean said. “I thought we were very fortunate in a lot of regards with some picks and I’m really proud of them. It’s a great group of kids.”
Lowell’s defense, which allowed only 26 first-half yards, set the tone and allowed the offense to take an early lead.
An interception by Sawyer Olesko set up a 13-yard touchdown run by Derek Massey and a 7-0 advantage.
Then, the Red Arrows capitalized on a muffed punt by Muskegon as PP Copeland was forced to kick it out the back of the end zone for a safety.
Lowell took the ensuing kick and padded its lead in the closing seconds of the first quarter. Quarterback Ryan Stevens connected with Gabe Steed for a 16-yard touchdown pass and it was 16-0.
Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said it was difficult to climb back from the early deficit.
“It’s always tough against a team like that because their defense is so great and they fly around,” he said. “They’re a strong team and they’re tough kids, but you can’t fall behind like that because then you let them dictate the game.”
Stevens and Steed hooked up again in the second quarter with a 19-yard score to make it 23-0 at halftime.
The duo added another touchdown, this time from 26 yards out, and Lowell held a comfortable 29-0 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“We knew that our first possession on defense was going to be a momentum changer and hopefully propel our offense,” Steed said. “I have to give all the credit to our line, and Max (Dean) and Derek ran well. We just came together and played our hardest. They are a great team, and every year they are good. I remember watching them as a kid.”
Muskegon finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter. Copeland scored on a 1-yard plunge to cut the Lowell lead to 29-7 with 9:41 remaining.
Massey, however, put the finishing touches on and raced 70 yards for the final score.
Fairfield admitted after the game that he was upset by the wet and muddy field conditions.
“They move on and we go home, so yeah, I’m a little disappointed, but when you’re playing in standing water in a regional final game it’s tough to swallow,” he said. “If we win one more game then they play at our place and we play on turf.”
Lowell will await the winner of Saturday’s regional final between Walled Lake Western and Midland Dow.
Walled Lake Western handed the Red Arrows their lone loss of the season.
“Whoever we play we will be fortunate and happy to play,” Dean said. “They are both good teams, well coached and certainly talented. We’re going to enjoy this win now and not worry about that till Monday.”