St Mary's Scores 3-Peat on Late TD

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

November 26, 2016

DETROIT – Orchard Lake St. Mary’s has been bitten before by teams that made last-second winning plays.

This time St. Mary’s bit back.

Ky’ren Cunningham’s 18-yard touchdown reception with four seconds left gave the Eaglets a thrilling 29-28 victory over Muskegon in the Division 3 Final on Saturday at Ford Field.

St. Mary’s (10-4) began its last drive on its 20-yard line with 1:55 left. A pass interference penalty by Muskegon and Rashawn Allen’s 22-yard run placed the Eaglets in a good position to go for the winning score.

On 3rd-and-3 from the 22, quarterback Caden Prieskorn scrambled for four yards and a first down. An incomplete pass preceded the winning score.

“It was a pistol right,” Prieskorn said. “All we knew was we were going to have man-on-man coverage.”

Make no mistake. This was desperation, and it was a makeshift play. Cunningham is a starting running back. The last time he lined up as a receiver was in the first game this season against Macomb Dakota. Coach George Porritt ditched that plan afterward. Cunningham would stay in the backfield.

But not this time. St. Mary’s had five wideouts and to confuse matters more, Cunningham went to the slot, then switched spots with Clay Antishin, with Antishin moving inside.

“I play running back,” said Cunningham, a junior. “It was one-on-one and the safety didn’t come over the top. Caden just threw it. He just made the read.

“My body felt so weak (when I caught it). I don’t remember much.”

If Cunningham was stunned, Muskegon was more so.

The only loss the Big Reds (12-2) had this season was to a team from Illinois (Lincolnshire Stevenson). They rolled through the playoffs with their Semifinal game against Edwardsburg (19-8) the only close one.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job of teaching coverage,” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said.

“People say we can’t win the big one," he added. "We won a lot of big games to get here. The football game doesn’t define you. It’s what you do and the way you act afterwards that defines you.”     

It was Muskegon’s fourth loss in a Final since winning its last title in 2008. Meanwhile, the championship was St. Mary’s third straight and eighth overall.

Muskegon took a 21-20 lead on its second possession of the second half. It took the Big Reds 1:48 to go 50 yards with senior quarterback/running back Kalil Pimpleton going the final 18 to give Muskegon the lead with 11:21 remaining.

St. Mary’s then went on one of its patented long, time-consuming drives to retake the lead. The Eaglets took 12 plays to go 47 yards, and Ben Fee set an MHSAA Finals record with a 49-yard field goal to give his team a short-lived 23-21 lead with 4:47 left.

Clinton Jefferson, Jr., returned the ensuing kickoff 49 yards to midfield to give the Big Reds great field position, and they made it count. Jefferson carried five times on the drive for 32 yards, including the last three for a touchdown with 1:55 left.

As it turned out, that was too much time to leave for St. Mary’s.

“Cade made some big throws against DeWitt (in a Regional Final),” St. Mary’s coach George Porritt said. “What amazes me is we were 5-4 at one point, and we battled back.”

St. Mary’s is the fifth team to win an MHSAA football title having lost four games. 

Muskegon led 14-13 at the end of an entertaining first half.

The Big Reds went 70 yards during the opening drive and took a 7-0 lead on Pimpleton’s 18-yard touchdown run. Pimpleton’s 27-yard pass to Jefferson helped set up the score.

St. Mary’s then went 69 yards, but its drive stalled and Fee kicked a 32-yard field goal.

La’darius Jefferson took over at quarterback for Pimpleton in the second quarter, and Muskegon increased its lead to 14-3 as Jefferson completed an 80-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. He carried five times on the drive for 25 yards. His 54-yard pass to Pimpleton was the key play.

After another Fee field goal, Muskegon had possession late in the half. But on 3rd-and-9 Jefferson handed off to Pimpleton, who threw a halfback pass that was intercepted by Shermond Dabney, who returned it 30 yards to the Muskegon 30. On St. Mary’s 3rd-and-9, Prieskorn threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Antishin, who made a diving catch in the end zone with 35 seconds left before the break.

Allen was a workhorse in the backfield, and ran with determination. A junior, he rushed for 136 yards on 25 carries, and Cunningham had 15 carries for 46 yards. Prieskorn was 13 of 21 passing for 200 yards and two touchdowns.

For Muskegon, Pimpleton had three receptions for 88 yards, was 3 of 4 passing for 58 and rushed nine times for 56 yards and two touchdowns.

Click for the full box score.

The MHSAA Football Finals are sponsored by the Michigan National Guard.   

PHOTOS: (Top) St. Mary’s Ky’ren Cunningham (12) celebrates his game-winning touchdown. (Middle) Muskegon’s La’darius Jefferson breaks around his blocker Saturday.

MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 27, 2023

The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.

The one-day camps will take place between May 15-18 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.

Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.

“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”

Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.

All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.

“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”

The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.