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Mona Shores' run to Ford Field was personal for coach Koziak

Football   | Jeff Dullack

State Champs! Sports Network

Detroit – For Matt Koziak, it was personal.

Four years ago, Matt Koziak returned to his alma matter, looking to turn the football program at Muskegon Mona Shores around.

It was a process that undoubtedly had its ups and downs, as the Sailors went 1-8 in his first season.

But over the course of the following two years, the Sailors progressed and made the playoffs in 2013 before a 2014 season where Mona Shores not only won its first playoff game in school history, but made its first appearance in the Division 2 state championship game.

Koziak said that to coach in the community he grew up in and at the school he attended is what made it so personal and that point became more apparent during the week leading up to the state championship game as his team made stops in the elementary and middle schools, two of which he attended growing up.

“It’s been extremely personal,” he said. “This past Wednesday we had a pep assembly where we were in the elementary schools and we were in the middle schools, and it’s funny because one of those schools was the elementary school I went to and the middle school I went to. So it’s very dear to me and it literally hits home for me, so to have the opportunity to give back to this program and these kids is personal and I don’t know how else to say it. It’s very dear and close to me, because I grew up in it.”

While the Sailors did fall short in the state championship game to Warren De La Salle, the progress the Mona Shores program has made throughout the past four years has been obvious.

After going 1-8 back in 2011, the Sailors improved to 4-5 in 2012 and in 2013 made the playoffs and finished with a 7-3 record.

Star quarterback Tyree Jackson, who has started all four years for the Sailors, said that he and his teammates made huge progress over the years and hopes that teams to follow keep building what the Sailors have started.

“The program has reached new heights, from 1-8 to playing for a state championship in four years is something that you don’t see that often,” he said. “I just hope the teams that come behind us just keep the legacy going.”

Koziak added that there has been some change in the culture at Mona Shores since he arrived and his players have brought the work hard mentality to his team that will continue to carry on past this year’s team.

“It’s hard to speak on what happened before I got there,” he said. “Maybe some kids didn’t take it as seriously, but football is not a show up in August and play game if you want to be good. So we hit the weights hard, watched a lot of film and worked on techniques and drilled and drilled and drilled. We had some success last year and I thought that made the kids even more hungry. If you look over the past four years, we’ve gotten better and better and hopefully, we’ve instilled that in our players that you have to work hard to get those results.”

Next year, Mona Shores returns five starters on offense, and seven on the defensive side as the Sailors look to continue to the success that 2014 brought.

Koziak noted that for the returning players on his team next year, this year’s run will definitely be a motivating factor for those players, wanting to get back to Ford Field once again.

“Offensively, we lose some key players, obviously Tyree Jackson, who’s our trigger guy and it’ll be hard to replace him and we lose DeOntay Moffett, but we get some really good skill kids back and defensively, we lose four players,” he said. “We’ll bounce back and the kids will work hard and this will sting for a while, but that’s just the way it is. They’ll take a week off and they’ll be back in the weight room and power lifting in the winter and now that they’ve gotten a taste of this, they’re absolutely going to want to get back here."

 

 

**EDITORS NOTE: Highlights from this game can be seen on the State Champs! High School Sports Show Sunday at 9 am and 10 pm on Fox Sports Detroit**