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Muskegon's tradition, legacy of past players keep Big Reds a regular state power

Football   | Jeff Dullack

Muskegon's tradition, legacy of past players keep Big Reds a regular state power

MUSKEGON – On a year in, year out basis, regardless of how much it may have lost from the previous season in terms of graduation, Muskegon has maintained the reputation of being one of the state’s elite.

The Big Reds have developed a culture where when a senior graduates, it’s the next man up to fill those shoes to keep the football program at the top on a consistent basis.

Muskegon head coach Shane Fairfield said that it helps having players who are dedicated to being a part of the football program and added that those players are all motivated to follow in the footsteps of some of the former greats to put on the Big Red’s uniform in years past.

“It helps that these kids eat, breathe and live Muskegon football,” he said. “From their youth teams, to the middle school football programs, they all want to play Big Red football, they all come to the games and play down at the end by the tree. They’re all used to hearing the names from back in the day like Ronald Johnson, Terrance Taylor, Buddy Keys and they want to be them. Those are their superstars and their idols and now this is their opportunity to be those guys.”

That’s the sentiment that carries throughout the entire football team at Muskegon, where the current players have grown up watching some of the Big Red standouts and are ready to be the next in a long line of players who have done just that in the past.

“Muskegon is all about tradition,” said slot receiver and safety Alezay Coleman on having the chance to grow up and follow Muskegon football. “Just watching the players from the past rise to the occasion when their number’s called and it’s our time now to seize the opportunity.”

Coleman will be one of many key returners for the Big Reds this fall, who will look to make a third straight appearance in the Division 2 state championship game, and will be joined by running back Caleb Washington, linemen Juaney Johnson and Derices Brown and receiver Joeviair Kennedy on offense.

Defensively, the Big Reds will be led by leading tackler from a year ago, T.J. Smith and defensive end Rowland Sharp and several of the previously mentioned players will make big contributions on defense as well this fall.

For Kennedy and all of the returning players, they feel like now it’s their turn to step in where the players in the past have and he believes he and his teammates are ready to have a big year this fall.

“Growing up as a young player watching players like Ronald Johnson, I just wanted to be just like them,” he said. “Now we’re here at that stage and we need to do what they did, and I think we can do more.”

One of the positions Muskegon is looking to fill this fall is the quarterback spot, where the Big Reds had one of the best quarterbacks in the state over the past couple of years in DeShaun Thrower, who has moved on to play college basketball.

The Big Reds have a two-way quarterback competition going between last year’s backup quarterback Shawn Pfenning and junior Cameron Hamilton as they look to try and fill the shoes of Thrower.

Fairfield said that as a football program, he feels that Muskegon is well suited to be able to rely on the next wave of players to take starting roles on a yearly basis because of the continuity the Big Reds have at all levels of their program.

“It helps that we’re a program, we feel that we’re a good football programs and not just a system or a team because of what we do at the middle school, freshman and JV levels, we can move one group of guys out and a new group of guys in,” he said. “We’re a disciplined team too, there’s a scheme for everything that we do. There’s an offensive scheme, there’s a defensive scheme and it’s taught all the way through.”

Muskegon opens the season at home on August 29, as it plays host to Detroit Catholic Central, who has been the runner up in Division 1 in each of the past three years.