Performance: Muskegon's La'Darius Jefferson

November 29, 2017

La’Darius Jefferson
Muskegon senior – Football

Muskegon’s 6-foot-2, 215-pound quarterback ran 32 times for 247 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Big Reds to a 28-10 win over Farmington Hills Harrison in Saturday’s Division 3 Final, earning Jefferson the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” The championship was Muskegon’s first since 2008 and came after the Big Reds fell by a point to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the 2016 championship game – when the Eaglets scored with four seconds to play.

Jefferson, who also celebrated his 18th birthday Saturday, finished this season with 2,097 yards and 33 touchdowns rushing and 1,205 yards and 21 touchdowns passing. His rushing touchdown total will make the MHSAA record book, and his performance Saturday earned four entries for accomplishments in a championship game. After splitting time at quarterback as a junior – and running for two touchdowns in the 2016 Final – Jefferson led arguably the best team in the state, regardless of division. The Big Reds scored 722 points, which rank third-most in state history, averaging 51.2 per game, which ranks 10th. Their average margin of victory was 45 points, and they outscored their five playoff opponents by a combined 221-36.

Individual awards are piling up for Jefferson, who was named Division 3-4 Player of the Year by The Associated Press and statewide Michigan High School Football Player of the Year by MLive. He previously had committed to continue his football and academic careers at University of Central Florida, but has re-opened his recruiting with Michigan State and Georgia Tech among those recruiting him hardest. Jefferson, who also ran track last spring, has big plans aside from football; he carries a 3.4 cumulative grade-point average and is a member of National Honor Society, and he plans to study aerospace engineering wherever he ends up. 

Coach Shane Fairfield said: “He is just a selfless kid that loves to win, that loves family. He’s driven by the relationships in his home. And he loves his teammates. And he was more vocal and determined this week to get this win, because his biggest thing is he wants all the kids who aren’t going to have the chance to experience what he’s going to experience after he graduates to have some type of experience that they can say either, ‘Hey, I played with La’Darius’ or ‘I won a state championship when I was in high school.’ And that’s it – he’s very aware of how lucky and fortunate he is to be in the position he is, and he just wants to share that with all of his teammates.”

Performance Point: “It’s amazing. It’s something people dream of,” Jefferson said. “People dream about scoring the last touchdown in their backyard, making the final hoop. It’s a blessing. I’m trying to hold my tears in. We worked so hard to get here. We’ve been gassed and pounded. It’s so special. … This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me besides my family.”

Team of destiny: “It’s something these boys have been dreaming about. I kid you not; I told Eli Jackson, 44, our eighth grade year that we were going to win it. I mean, we’re here.”

Motivated Muskegon: “We had a chip on our shoulder until (the clock) was zero-zero. We weren’t done. We had a chip on our shoulder all year. Everybody we played, we said we’re going to punish. … Everybody doubted us. Everybody said we lost Kalil Pimpleton, one of the best players in the state (who played this fall at Virginia Tech). We lost JaCorey Sullivan (Central Michigan) … Andrew Ward (Nebraska), one of the best defensive players in the state last year. We lost them big boys up front. So we overcame.”

Checkmate: “I’ve been more humble (this season). I enjoy the moment. I feel like last year it was an amp moment; I wasn’t feeling it. I told myself, it’s all I’ve got. It’s my last job. I go through every day and I do a checklist. As a kid I dreamed about winning player of the year and breaking records and doing all this, and I did all that. The final checklist was win a state championship, and I can go home and check that off.”

Soaring on and off the field: “I know I want to be a successful young man beyond football. I want to go to college and study aerospace engineering, get my degree and help provide for my family. I’ve got goals beyond football. I thought as a kid that football was the only thing that I had, (but) I can do without football. I’m a great student. I work hard; I work my butt off in the classroom. I want to build planes. Who don’t want to build planes? Who don’t want to be like, ‘Oh, La’Darius built this big machine that’s flying?’ It’s cool; it’s unique.” 

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2017-18 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Previous 2017-18 honorees:
November 23: Ashley Turak, Farmington Hills Harrison swimming - Read
November 16: Bryce Veasley, West Bloomfield football - Read 
November 9: Jose Penaloza, Holland soccer - Read
November 2: Karenna Duffey, Macomb L'Anse Creuse North cross country - Read
October 26: Anika Dy, Traverse City Central golf - Read
October 19: Andrew Zhang, Bloomfield Hills tennis - Read
October 12: Nolan Fugate, Grand Rapids Catholic Central football - Read
October 5: Marissa Ackerman, Munising tennis - Read
September 28: Minh Le, Portage Central soccer - Read
September 21: Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic cross country - Read
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) La'Darius Jefferson crosses into the end zone for one of his four touchdowns during the Division 3 Final on Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) Jefferson breaks into an opening while Harrison defenders pursue. 

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.