DETROIT (WOOD) — It was another chance for Shane Fairfield and Muskegon to get back on the top of Division 3 for the first time since 2017.
In that undefeated journey to Ford Field, the Big Reds took down Farmington Hills Harrison and earned the first and only state title in Fairfield’s 12-year tenure with the program.
The last chance the Big Reds had was 2019 when they played River Rouge, but fell in a 30-7 blowout. The season before that in 2018, the Big Reds met with Detroit Martin Luther King and lost 41-25.
In 2022, they had another shot at Detroit King but once again came up short.
Five-star Oregon commit Dante Moore threw for four touchdowns and 275 yards, guiding MLK to a 56-27 victory over the Big Reds for back-to-back Division 3 State Championship on Saturday night at Ford Field.
Fairfield was proud of the way this Muskegon (11-2) bunch battled to earn his eighth appearance in a state title game.
“We’ve been battle tested all year, it’s not the outcome we wanted but there’s no excuses because they played lights out,” Fairfield said. “We’re a young football team and we didn’t use those excuses when we were winning so we won’t now, but we we’re here and had the chance to compete against that football team. (MLK) is the 2022 state champs, but the senior class set an example to get us back here next year with our lower class guys.”
King didn’t waste any time to have their presence felt. On the opening kickoff, Jameel Croft made a quick cut left and found a seam with nothing but green turf in front of him. It was a 96-yard return for the score and quickly had the Big Reds in a hole.
After a quick 3 and out for the Big Reds, King responded as Moore completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Croft for his second score of the game. Muskegon needed a response to slow the game down and in a hurry.
“We needed to find some answers early on when we fell behind so our coaches challenged our guys to that,” Fairfield said.
M’Khi Guy answered that calling. On the first play of the drive, he took a read-option 60 yards to the house and cut the deficit in half.
The teams would continue to go back and forth for a couple more possessions, bringing the score to 21-14. However, the Big Reds couldn’t slow down all of the weapons they were facing on the highly talented King offense.
It looked like Muskegon could get off the field with a stop on a 4th and one midway through the second quarter. Sterling Anders had other plans. His 19-yard touchdown rush was a backbreaker for the Big Reds, as it made the score 28-14. Right before the half would end, Moore added insult to injury with his second passing touchdown, this time to Damon Stennis from 2 yards out.
It was 35-14 MLK and they never had to look back. King did not punt in the first half and did not allow a passing yard, although the Big Reds did not attempt a pass.
While the loss hurts right now, Fairfield knows this team didn’t give up at any point throughout the season.
The Big Reds lost two of their first five games but were able to rebound and end the regular season with four straight wins. That carried into the postseason where they extended the winning streak to eight games before falling to King in the final.
Fairfield has coached a lot of teams in his 12 seasons with the Big Reds, but he was proud of this group for how they fought to the final down of 2022.
“This one is going to sting for a little bit because we were that close again,” Fairfield said. “You have to wait 364 days to get back and that’s tough, but I know this group is full of good kids. They will put themselves in a position to be back.”