Muskegon gets some distance on Stevenson
Stepping off a bus after a four-hour ride and trying to play a football game doesn't seem ideal.
But somehow, both Stevenson and Muskegon of Michigan have made the best of it, and made it work ... to the tune of a victory.
Last season, Stevenson trekked to Michigan, edged Muskegon in a back-and-forth battle, and then returned home, all in one day.
On Saturday night, Muskegon returned the favor.
The Big Reds arrived in their charter buses, warmed up the best they could and then got hot at just the right times in running away with a 28-7 victory.
Muskegon, the winningest program in the state of Michigan with 821 victories, and the seventh-winningest high school football program in the country, improves to 2-0, scoring 21 unanswered points to break up a 7-7 first-quarter tie. Stevenson, which didn't lose last season after defeating Muskegon in Week 2, drops to 1-1.
The Big Reds were eager to even the series with Stevenson, to show Illinois football fans what their program is all about, and to stay on track with their goal to win yet another state championship. There have been 17 state championship football teams at Muskegon but not one since 2008. Last year's team lost a heartbreaker in the state title game with four seconds remaining.
"It's a situation where our kids are just very proud to be in this program," said Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield, who has three Division I recruits with commitments on his roster and others who are receiving serious Division I interest. "When we came out (to the field) today, their (public address) announcer welcomed us and said, 'Here's Muskegon, Michigan's winningest football team.' I think that kind of hit our guys. In Michigan, it's known. But now we're in the state of Illinois playing one of the classiest, best programs we've ever played and to hear that from their announcer and their fans, it really hit them.
"But at the same time, just because we have that tradition, we have to understand that when we get to a game, the scoreboard is still 0-0 and no one is going to lay down for us. If anything, they're going to be more (jacked up) to play us."
Stevenson seemed to be of the latter, ready and excited to take another shot at the Big Reds.
The Patriots came out with a clear intensity and sense of urgency to start the game and scored just six plays and three minutes in. Backup quarterback Cole Okmin, playing in place of starter Grayson Kubow, who hurt his ankle in a Week 1 win over Palatine, hit Alex Capstick with two big passes, the second of which went for a 15-yard touchdown.
But four plays later, Muskegon answerd when quarterback La'darius Jefferson, who ran the ball on every play of the drive, took in a 1-yard touchdown. On the previous play, Jefferson had set himself up with a 63-yard run.
Jefferson, who is commited to Central Florida, scored 2 touchdowns and rushed for 188 yards on 28 carries on the night.
"Our big line kept our offense moving," said Jefferson, who runs behind two Division I linemen. Anthony Bradford has offers from every Big Ten and SEC school, including Alabama, and Antwan Reed is commited to Penn State.
"We knew that if we could just get a good alley and break a couple tackles that we could take a couple home (for touchdowns). For me, I just used my big body and plowed people over. We just kept pushing and kept working. And we have a lot of weapons."
The Big Reds also got a big rushing effort out of Davion Mccall, who scored a touchdown and finished with 134 rushing yards on just 6 carries. His touchdown run was a 78-yarder.
Clinton Jefferson added 55 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 4 carries. He scored Muskegon's last touchdown with 8:20 left in the fourth quarter on a 28-yard run.
Stevenson just couldn't get any momentum going in the second half. The Patriots had just three possessions and those ended with a lost fumble and two punts.
"We came out hot and our defense played unbelieveable the whole game. Muskegon is a really great team," Okmin said. "It's the offense's job to put up points. I mean, our defense let up only 28 points. It was the offense (not being able to score) and that means it's my fault. I've got to lead the offense. We'd have a few good plays and then we'd miss a throw or miss a block or turn the ball over.
"We can't do that if we want to beat teams like this and compete against the best programs."
Okmin finished with an impressive line, completing 23-of-35 passes for 260 yards and the touchdown. Capstick was his big target, catching 10 passes for 167 yards.
But the Patriots had very little offense on the ground, and finished with 14 carries for 6 yards.
"It was a challenge playing these guys. They (Muskegon) have a lot of weapons, and I'm not sure we're going to see many other guys as big as some of their guys," first-year Stevenson coach Josh Hjorth said. "But this is why we play games like this. So that we can get better and be ready for our conference and the playoffs.
"We kept fighting and this was a great challenge for us. We'll build off of it."