In Play with Tom Markowski

Tradition-rich Muskegon opens practice, seeks to end three-year losing streak in state final

Football   | Tom Markowski

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Muskegon – As a four-year starter Terrion Hill-McKay understands what it means to play for one of the state’s top programs.

Kalil Pimpleton, a junior who will get his first varsity start on Aug. 28 at Detroit Catholic Central, is about to find out.

Muskegon has won five state titles but has lost in a state final in each of the past three seasons, two in Division 2 and last year it lost in the Division 3 final to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 7-0.

The Big Reds have won 798 games, the most in state history and a win total that places them in the top 15 in the country. To play for a program like this is a privilege according to Hill-McKay.

On Monday Hill-McKay and his teammates had their first day of conditioning on the school’s practice field located about 100 yards from historic Hackley Stadium.

“It’s an honor,” Hill-McKay said. “We hold ourselves to a different standard than anyone else. People expect us to win. We just try to live up to that.”

Losing in a state final three times has left a bad taste in Hill-McKay’s mouth. He’s getting tired of it. Even a 20-tackle performance in last year’s final can’t take away the bitterness.

“We’ll be more prepared,” he said. “We just have a vendetta. We have to win it. It can’t be like the last three years.”

Pimpleton, whose nickname is K.P., is a bit of a freak. At 5-7 and 155 pounds he’s not tall but is deceptively strong. He can squat 385 pounds and can bench press 260.

“I’ve always been naturally strong,” he said. “My biggest adjustment will be the speed of the game. It’s going to be much faster.

“(Playing for Muskegon) is the best thing that ever happened to me; to be a part of one of the most winningest teams in the country. My mom (Tawana Brown) graduated from here. Many of my uncles played here. My father (Jeff Brown) played here. This is great.”

As a starting quarterback on the freshmen and junior varsity teams Pimpleton has led the Big Reds to a 17-1 record. Now the real test begins.

Shane Fairfield is entering his sixth season as head coach. He started his coaching career in 1998 as an assistant to Dave Taylor at Muskegon so Fairfield has a grasp of what is expected of him. He has yet to be a head coach of a state championship team but he’s confident this team can break through and win it all.

“Today is about expectations,” he said. “Today we’ll go through the drills but after a couple of practices the kids will know exactly what to do.”

Fairfield is one of 15 coaches on staff and all work with all three level in practice. This will continue until about week three or four when the coaches will concentrate on their specific roles.

“That’s what makes us a program,” he said. “I know every kid from when they are a freshman until they come here as seniors.”

Fairfield has seven starters back on offense including his entire offensive line. That’s good news for Pimpleton.