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Marquette Redmen fall to national power Muskegon in Division 3 football playoffs

GRAND HAVEN — The game may have gone too much like expected, but Marquette Senior High School first-year varsity football coach Eric Mason wasn’t going to hang his head after the Redmen bowed out in the first round of the MHSAA playoffs on Saturday.

Led by Ohio State-bound quarterback Cameron Martinez, Muskegon ran around and past Marquette 69-7 in the predistrict round of the Division 3 playoffs that afternoon at Gene Rothi Field in Grand Haven, about 15 miles south of Muskegon on the shores of Lake Michigan in the central Lower Peninsula.

“Their quarterback was one of the quickest, fastest players I’ve ever seen in person on a football field,” Mason said. “Sometimes you run into a team like this. They proved why they’re a nationally ranked team.”

No. 18 in the nation, to be exact, according to reports on MLive.com, which covers sports in numerous downstate areas, including around Muskegon.

As a 5-4 “wild card” team, Marquette drew the best team in their district. Those in the know in the state say 10-0 Muskegon is not only the class of Division 3, but may be the best team in any class in Michigan.

“You always have to play the game on the field, but I’d be shocked if they lost a game in the playoffs,” Mason said. “Their quarterback is a great player, but the rest of their team is solid, too. They just have an extreme amount of speed. Even the defensive ends they had — they’re about 6-foot-4 and 240, 250 pounds — every kid on the field could run.”

Martinez, 5-11 and 190 pounds, rushed for 293 yards and scored seven touchdowns on the ground — all in the first half — as Muskegon established a 48-7 halftime edge, according to MLive. His TD runs were of 3, 8 and 4 yards in the first quarter and 27, 30, 87 and 10 yards in the quarter No. 2.

He broke his own single-game rushing TD record of six at his school, a record he set last season. He also had a good shot at setting a state record — nine scored by Schoolcraft’s Kobe Clark in 2018 — but Martinez didn’t play a down in the second half.

The Redmen scored their lone touchdown in the second quarter when senior QB Robert Apple hooked up with junior receiver Kameron Karp on a 59-yard scoring reception, according to Mason.

It broke a three-game shutout streak by the Big Reds dating back to Oct. 4.

Marquette starting signal caller Austin Ridl, a sophomore, reaggravated an injury in warmups he originally suffered a week earlier against Kingsford that brought Apple into that home game as QB.

MLive reported that Apple was 9 of 19 passing for 117 yards, with junior teammate Brady Wright rushing for 52 yards on eight carries.

Despite Muskegon’s awesome output, Marquette had several defensive highlights, too. Senior Drew Wyble picked off a Martinez pass and sophomore Dustin Lohfink sacked the Muskegon QB one time.

“I saw a bunch of film on Muskegon getting ready for this game, and in all that film I didn’t see them commit a turnover,” Mason said. “So that was pretty good to get an interception.”

Mason said his team totaled 180 yards in total offense. MLive quoted Muskegon as having 566 total yards.

“Even with this game, there were a few silver linings with it,” Mason said. “Every kid played, including the seven sophomores we had with us. It’s good for them to see and experience something like this.”

He said just having the Redmen qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2014 does the program good.

“It goes a long way into getting everyone excited,” Mason said. “Over the whole year, though, while the wins and losses were great, the way these kids always showed up ready at practice, their excitement and the enthusiasm, really put a smile on my face just about every day.”

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@ miningjournal.net.