Photo courtesy of Rick Laven. To see pictures of the game click here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/PDuLYDFNbXfV4RVGA
The Cedar Springs Red Hawks have been one of the area’s better programs over the past four seasons. Unfortunately, they had ran into the Muskegon Big Reds in the playoffs in 2018, 2019 and 2020, limiting their chances of advancing in the MHSAA Playoffs. After a 7-2 regular season that saw Cedar Springs lose to Rockford and Grand Rapids Catholic Central, two schools that are a combined 22-0 on the year, the Red Hawks disposed of Coopersville in the first round of the playoffs. That set up a fourth-straight postseason rematch with the Muskegon Big Reds. On this Saturday afternoon on the Lakeshore at historic Hackley Stadium, Cedar Springs flipped the script. They took down the mighty Muskegon unit in a 21-14 affair.
Neither team scored in the first quarter of this game. Cedar Springs did have a strong first quarter drive, getting deep into the red zone. Muskegon slammed the door however, putting together a goal line stand.
The Red Hawks would break through in the second quarter, marching down the field with their T-attack. Ryan Mitchell capped off the drive by powering his way through the front line and into the end zone from a yard out. This gave Cedar Springs a 7-0 advantage.
Muskegon wasted no time in responding, scoring quickly. Jakob Price, a speedy offensive weapon for the Big Reds, shot through the defense, racing down the field for a 64-yard touchdown. The extra point by Adrian Ramos-Valazquez was the equalizer, knotting this game at 7. Shortly before the half, Muskegon had a deep ball just extend past the outstretched arms of Jeremiah Dault, As a result, the teams went to the break knotted up at seven.
Cedar Springs started the second half with the football, and they went on a two-minute touchdown drive. Ryan West was able to break free, sprinting right through the middle of the Muskegon defense for a 55-yard touchdown. It was a beautiful display of the misdirection in the T-offense, as Big Reds lunged at the other backs while West ran untouched to the end zone.
Muskegon responded with their own drive down the field. They got all the way to the 3 yard line, where they faced a fourth-and-goal. Cedar Springs built a wall, holding the Big Reds out of the end zone and maintaining their 14-7 advantage. This lead would hold through the end of the third quarter.
Sixty-two seconds into the final frame, Cedar Springs was able to add some insurance to their lead. Once again, it was Ryan West who darted past a hoard of Big Red defenders on his way to the end zone. This 66-yard carry gave the Red Hawks a 21-7 lead.
The Big Reds responded with another fast touchdown. Again, Price was the culprit, capping off a quick scoring drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. Ramos-Valazquez’s extra point got Muskegon back within seven, 21-14, with nine minutes to play.
Muskegon appeared to catch a big break when Myles Walton intercepted one of the Red Hawks’ rare pass attempts. This gave the Big Reds the ball near midfield. It was quickly dismissed however, as the Red Hawks forced and recovered a fumble just a few moments later. Cedar Springs was able to control the clock, picking up a crucial first down on a Muskegon offsides penalty. The Red Hawks marched all the way down the field, and opted to kick a field goal with 35 seconds to go. Though the kick sailed wide, Muskegon could not find the end zone. On the final play, they completed a desperation throw, but barely crossed midfield before being stopped.
Cedar Springs is now District Champions for the first time since 2018. They will look to become the first Red Hawks team since 2000 to capture a regional championship next week. Standing in their path are the DeWitt Panthers, the reigning Division 3 State Champions. DeWitt is 10-1 on the season, and they defeated previously unbeaten Mount Pleasant 5o-26 on Friday night. Though the odds may appear tall on their face, Cedar Springs showed on Saturday afternoon that they can play with the State’s best.