Lowell races to 23-0 lead, slams door on Muskegon 36-7 in a Division 2 region finalFootball  |
Lowell -- When it's this deep in the football playoffs, strong starts to games and early momentum can make a huge difference when two teams of similar ability line up.
That was never more evident than in the Division 2 regional final game at Lowell at Friday.
The host Red Arrows came out and dominated the first 24 minutes of play on both sides of the ball against long-time playoff rival Muskegon. That allowed Lowell to race out to a 23-0 lead at halftime.
From there, the Red Arrows were able to grind out a 36-7 victory over the Big Reds with the some solid ball-control offense and a couple of big plays in the second half.
"Some things went our way early, and we were very fortunate," said Lowell coach Noel Dean, who celebrated his 200th win at Lowell with a victory over their playoff nemesis. "I'm as surprised as you guys are (we won this big). It was really surprising to me (that we held them to one score).Our guys played a pretty nice game, and we were fortunate in a lot of regards, like some picks early .I'm really proud of them, it’s a great group of kids."
Offensively and defensively Lowell was outstanding in the first half, as the defense held Muskegon to 27 yards.
The Red Arrows gained 262 yards including 107 passing. Senior quarterback Ryan Stevens threw two touchdown passes to his favorite receiver, senior Gabe Steed.
Stevens and Steed connected for another touchdown in the second half.
The surprise on the ground for Lowell was senior running back Derek Massey, who gained 184 yards on just 12 carries and two touchdowns. His 70-yard touchdown run cemented the win.
"I would say the coaches and the lineman did a better job than I did," a humble Massey said. "I got the best play calls, and Ryan Stevens always gave me the ball in the best position possible for me to do well for my team. That's what helped me do well, my team and my line."
Muskegon played a little better in the second half, but the Big Reds were never really able to get solid footing on a muddy Bob Perry Field at Lowell.
A part of the game that Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield was quick to point out in his postgame comments to the media.
"You guys see the mud, there was standing water when we got here," said Fairfield, whose team ends its year with a 9-3 record. "Beat us the right way, I'm sorry. A loss is a loss, but I still don't know who's a better team. But it's our fault, if we would have won one more home game, I think we would have played at our place, and we would have played that game on turf, not on grass."
Still, Fairfield had to give credit where credit was due, even though it was difficult with the conditions. His team was beat by a team that Muskegon has played some epic playoff games against.
"It is what it is, they move on and we go home," Fairfield said. "But when you are playing a regional game in standing water, that's tough to swallow.
"We did have a couple of blown coverages," he added. "It hurt us that we played so much defense that would couldn't get their offense off the field. And our offense wasn't able to match points. It was smart by them."