Muskegon captures first state title since 2008

Muskegon took on Farmington Hills Harrison for a state championship at Ford Field in Detroit on Nov. 25, 2017. (Natalie Longroy/WOOD TV8)

DETROIT (WOOD) — Muskegon football finally got over the hump.

After coming up short in four previous tries, the Big Reds finally got that elusive win in a state championship game.

Senior La’Darius Jefferson powered Muskegon to a 28-10 victory over Farmington Hills Harrison in Saturday night’s Division 3 state championship game at Ford Field.

It is the school’s first state title since 2008, after placing state runner-up from 2012-2014 and in 2016.

“I really don’t know how I feel right now because I’m just kind of numb to the fact that I’ve been here four of the last five years and haven’t been on this side of the mic,” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said. “We fought to the end, our kids played well and I’m the happiest guy in the world.”

Jefferson, the Associated Press Division 3-4 Player of the Year, rushed for 245 yards on 32 carries and scored four touchdowns.

“We had a chip on our shoulder all year,” Jefferson said. “This means a lot. I told Eli Jackson eighth grade year that we were going to win it, and we’re here, and it’s a blessing. I feel like my teammates put me on their back and without them I wouldn’t be here.”

Saturday also was Jefferson’s 18th birthday. He celebrated by racing around the field with the Muskegon flag when the final seconds ticked off the clock.

“This is the best thing that has ever happened to me besides my family,” Jefferson said. “It seems so unreal.”

Muskegon senior lineman Antwan Reed Jr. said the team was motivated by last year’s last-second loss to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.

“It feels great, and we just built off of last year,” he said. “All we thought about was last year and we came out every day and every practice and battled with the reminder of those four second from last year.

“We just gave it our extra and we came out and showed how much we’ve been working and came out with the win.”

The Big Reds were jolted early after Ben Williams returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown to put them in an early 7-0 hole.

Muskegon answered when Jefferson capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run to knot it at 7-7.

Farmington Hills Harrison booted a field goal in the second quarter to make it 10-7, but the Big Reds took their first lead on a 14-yard run by Jefferson.

Muskegon led 14-10 at half, and Jefferson helped pad the lead in the second half with a pair of touchdowns runs from of one and three yards.

The Big Reds’ defense also came up big, as it didn’t allow a touchdown.

“They’ve been doing their thing all year and just working,” Reed Jr. said. “They came out and showed it today.”

Muskegon finished with a perfect 14-0 record, its first undefeated season since 2008.