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Marquette succumbs again to Muskegon in Division 3 football playoffs

Marquette’s Brady Wright, No. 34 at center, is gang-tackled by Muskegon’s Meshaune Crowley, No. 32, Julius Sims Jr., No. 3, and other teammates during their MHSAA Division 3 high school football district championship game at Hackley Stadium in Muskegon on Saturday. Also shown for Marquette is Alex Schlemm, second from right, and Trevor Simon, right. (MLive.com photo by Scott DeCamp)

MARQUETTE — Despite a loss to end their season on Saturday, the Marquette Senior High School football team accomplished some things never done before in the program’s history.

The Redmen reached the third round of the MHSAA Division 3 playoffs before succumbing to Muskegon 47-21.

The Big Reds clinched their ninth straight district championship with the win, but it was much more competitive than last year’s 69-7 victory over a Marquette team that made a seven-plus-hour bus trip south.

“Our kids did things that hadn’t been done before,” second-year MSHS head coach Eric Mason said on Sunday. “That was due to their working hard and playing well.

“I think they’ve set the bar going forward with this program.”

He agreed that next year’s team could do even better that this year’s 7-2 mark and this run in the playoffs, considering the number of players coming back next year.

“I’m very optimistic about our future,” the coach said. “This is a very hard-working group coming back and they can be better than ever.”

On Saturday, several Redmen stars weren’t enough to keep Marquette’s season going past the district finals. The team reached this level once before, in 2010, but only had to win one playoff game to get that point.

That’s because this year’s tournament field was doubled in its number of teams, necessitating an extra week to whittle the field down.

Among those MSHS stars was senior Kameron Karp, who made seven pass receptions for a whopping 242 yards with touchdown catches of 71, 52 and 82 yards, according to a report from mLive.com. Mason didn’t have his own numbers from the game by Mining Journal press time on Sunday.

Karp also made two interceptions while playing on defense.

“He’s done it all throughout the year,” Mason told mLive. “But Kam’s just a great athlete, he’s a smart kid and he plays hard. With a kid like that, you like to see these kind of games, you like to see him have success and finish it out strong, and he did.”

Getting him those passes was junior quarterback Austin Ridl, who while completing just 15 of 40 passes with two interceptions, rolled up 330 yards through the air.

“Sure, I’d have liked to see a few more completions, but he made the most of the ones he did complete,” Mason said Sunday.

However, Muskegon owned the ground game, outrushing Marquette 402-56. And that was without Cameron Martinez, who as a senior last year was a blue-chip recruit and now plays for Ohio State of the Big 10. In last year’s game against Marquette, Martinez, who played QB, rushed for seven TDs and 293 yards without getting on the field for a single offensive play in the second half.

This year, Muskegon senior QB Amari Crowley ran the ball 18 times for 135 yards while completing 8 of 15 passes for 127 yards, two TDs and Karp’s two pickoffs.

Junior Desmond Mullen led the Marquette defense with eight tackles.

Things started well for the Redmen, who trailed just 7-0 after one quarter. The lone score of the opening 12 minutes came from the Big Reds defense when all-state first-team safety Tyreese Oakes intercepted a Ridl pass and returned it 70 yards for a score with 1:51 left.

“We (worked on it) in practice, I saw it on film,” Oakes told mLive. “I told coach, I said, ‘I’m going to pick that one,’ because it’s just double-hitch. I’m supposed to hold the back, so I’m like, ‘I’m gonna get one of them,’ and I got it and it kick-started it.”

Muskegon followed up that big play with plenty more in the second quarter, scoring 34 points for a 41-14 lead at halftime, according to mLive. Much of that came in the final four minutes when the Big Reds scored three times, culminated by a Crowley 8-yard TD run to end the second quarter.

It also included a Myles Watson 63-yard punt return for a TD and Jeremiah Dault recovering a Marquette fumble.

“The second quarter we just, against a team like this, you just can’t give ’em anything and we gave them a return (for) a touchdown and a punt return and we just can’t do that,” Mason said to mLive. “We played well. I mean, to start out we played well and we finished well — just that second quarter; if we get rid of that, we’d be all right.

“But they’re a darn good team, obviously very talented, a great group, so hats off to them. But I’m proud of my kids.”

Muskegon (8-1) advances to host East Grand Rapids (6-3) for the Division 3 regional championship on Saturday afternoon. The Big Reds have appeared in the last four Division 3 state championship games at Ford Field in Detroit, winning it all in 2017.

Last year, Muskegon lost to River Rouge 30-7 in the state finals.

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

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