Sluggish start dooms Pilots in opener

DETROIT, Mich. – The fourth-ranked Muskegon Big Reds claimed a convincing 41-7 win over De La Salle Collegiate Friday in Detroit at the Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic sponsored by the Metro Detroit Sports Commission.
 
A year ago in Muskegon, the Big Reds claimed a 36-21 victory behind newly minted starting quarterback Cameron Martinez, a transfer from Muskegon Catholic Central. Martinez ran roughshod over the Pilots for 290 yards and five touchdowns in his Muskegon debut.
 
The 2018 game was a matchup of returning state champions. Muskegon earned the 2017 MHSAA division 3 title while De La Salle won the division 2 crown.
 
This year's meeting featured the defending Division 2 state champion Pilots and a Muskegon team that finished as the Division 3 runner up following a surprising 41-25 loss to Detroit King.
 
Although technically a neutral site game, De La Salle calls Tom Adams Field home during the regular season. The location of the game proved not to be an advantage for De La Salle.
 
This time, Martinez was only 6-for-11 for 57 yards passing but rushed the ball 21 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
 
While there were few bright spots for the Pilots, senior Brett Stanley had six carries for 43 yards and a touchdown to go along with one catch for 52 yards. Senior Muzzie Kahari added to the De La Salle total with eight carries for 32 yards.
 
Quarterback Anthony Stepnitz returned to action after a season-ending injury a year ago. In his senior debut, Stepnitz went 6-for-17 for 100 yards passing.
 
Defensively, the Pilots had their hand full all evening. Senior Braden Babich and Sophomore William Beesley each had ten tackles while Seniors Derelle Murray and Michael Young, Jr. each added a tackle for loss.

Missed Opportunities: In addition to a fumble on the opening drive, De La Salle also failed on its lone field goal attempt. The Big Reds defense stopped De La Salle on three of its four trips inside the red zone including a drive that stalled following a blocked punt inside the Muskegon 8 yard line.
 
Series Notes: The previous two meetings between these storied programs both occurred in the Division 2 state championship game. The Big Reds, behind USC-bound wideout Ronald Johnson won a thrilling, 32-30 decision at Ford Field in the 2006 finale. In 2008, a balanced Big Reds attack again clipped De La Salle in the final, 34-14. De La Salle is now 0-4 vs. Muskegon all-time.
 
De La Salle will host London (ONT) St. Thomas Aquinas Friday, September 6 at 7 p.m. The 2018 state championship football team will be honored at the game.

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