The Mona Shores Sailors have been the cream of the crop in Division 2, making three consecutive trips to Ford Field and capturing the past two State Championships. “The State Championship goes through them”, FHC Head Coach Tim Rogers shared on Tuesday evening. “They execute at the highest level every week, and that’s why they’ve made it to the final game three years running.”
A three-peat has only been accomplished once in Division 2/Class BB, when Brother Rice won three in a row between 2011-13. No team has ever been in four consecutive finals in this division. Mona Shores’ pursuit of both of those goals will begin on Friday night, as they hit the road for their playoff opener. Their trip will take them to Grand Rapids, for a showdown with Forest Hills Central.
Forest Hills Central enters this game at 8-1. Champions of the OK White, the Rangers’ lone loss came in heartbreaking fashion against Grand Blanc, a team that many view as a contender in Division 1. “Coach Rogers has built a great program, and he has a great coaching staff. Their kids buy in, and they are such a physical football team,” Mona Shores Head Coach Matt Koziak stated. “We have to match their physicality. They are tremendous at coming off the football, running right at you. Their defense doesn’t yield, and they control the clock with their offense. We need to sustain drives, get first downs, and use our offense to keep their offense off the field.”
Hunter Robinson has provided a spark to the FHC offense since his return in Week 3. “Hunter is such a great runner. He doesn’t throw as well as Justin (Osterhouse), but he doesn’t need to,” Rogers explained. “As a defensive coordinator, you’ll be committing to the run to try and stop Hunter. This forces other teams to put eight or nine guys in the box, and with DBs on an island, it creates downfield throwing opportunities. Hunter can make those throws over the top, and we have receivers that can make the big play”.
Robinson has seventeen total touchdowns, eight passing and nine rushing. One of his best weapons is Jacob Bonnett, who has found the end zone twelve times. Bonnett has rushed for five scores, hauled in four more, and he has three touchdowns as an explosive return man.
Mona Shores suffered a pair of regular season defeats, falling to Detroit King and Muskegon. This gave the Sailors their most regular season losses since 2016. This team still has the weapons to reach Ford Field, though Coach Koziak explained that this bunch is different than the previous three. “Each team had their own identity. This year’s team does certain things better than last year’s team, but last year’s team had their own strengths. We have a young secondary this year, and they have continued to grow all year. We lost a lot of extremely experienced players back there. On the flip side, our run defense is better than what we had a year ago, as we have strength and experience up front. Offensively, Mark brings some things Brady couldn’t do, providing a different look schematically.”
Mark Konecny has completed 68% of his passes, racking up 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has also added 13 scores on the ground, with 642 yards. Damir Farnum (652 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns) and Demetri Roberson (474 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns) have been reliable weapons for this offense.
Game planning for the Sailors is a tall task, Coach Rogers explained. “They don’t make many mistakes. Each game, they execute at a high level, and we need to match that. We have stressed that every week. They’re going to score their points, you just need to contain it the best you can. We need to make them beat us. We can’t make mistakes. We can’t jump offsides, turn the ball over, or commit penalties. It’s essential that we run the ball and keep them off the field.”
This has become quite a postseason rivalry, and both coaches have shared that they wish it wouldn’t keep occurring so early in the playoffs. “It’s a shame we have to play again this early,” Koziak exclaimed. “The past few years, we both have had great teams, and who knows how long either team would have been able to advance if we had gotten to play later”.
“It’s such a close game once again that home field advantage can be a huge factor in this game.” Rogers shared. “We fought hard to earn the home field advantage, and we are one play away from being undefeated. We earned that right to host a prize fight.”