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DISTRICT CHAMPS: Red Hawks Upset Muskegon in Defensive Shootout

The Red Hawks Celebrate the District Title after a 21-14 win over Muskegon. 

By: Brandon Kramer 

Last Saturday the Red Hawks traveled to the lakeshore to take on the Big Reds of Muskegon. Dubbed the M-46 rivalry, this year’s district final matchup was the 4th consecutive year the 2 schools have met in the postseason. Both teams carried momentum as the Red Hawks secured the single season school scoring record with a dominating 45-6 victory over Coopersville the week before. The Big Reds entered the game with a single loss on the season, having fallen to Detroit Cass Tech in week 2 before stringing together 7 straight victories to end the regular season. 

The game itself defied the expectations of many. What was thought to be a game pitting two explosive offenses against each other, quickly developed into a defensive slugfest as the first quarter ended with both teams scoreless. 

Junior running back Ryan West rushed for 116 yards on 3 carries against the Big Reds.

The stalemate was finally broken halfway through the second quarter as a 40 yard completion from senior quarterback Aiden Brunin to running back Ryan West put the offense in the redzone for the 1st time. The Red Hawks capitalized on the opportunity as junior running back Ryan Mitchell ran for gains of 3 and 9 before punching it in, scoring on a 2 yard touchdown carry. 

Muskegon was quick to respond, putting together a 3 play, 78 yard touchdown drive capped off with a 64 yard carry by Jakob Price to tie the game at 7-7, a score which both teams brought into halftime. 

Coming out of the break Red Hawk Coach Gus Kapolka stressed to the team the importance of winning the 1st 8 minutes of the second half in hopes of avoiding the sluggish 2nd half starts which have hampered the team all season. The offense came out of the gate firing needing only three plays before Ryan West ran 50 yards to the end zone giving Cedar a 14-7 advantage. The Red Hawks took that lead into the 4th quarter in part due to a bend but don’t break defense as well as a MHSAA postseason record setting 86 yard punt by Aiden Brunin which pinned the Big Reds deep in their own territory.

After forcing Muskegon to punt on a quick 4 and out possession to start the quarter, the Red Hawks took over on their own 35 yard line. This time it would only take 2 plays for Cedar Springs to find the endzone as Ryan West broke off a massive 65 yard carry to stretch the lead to 2 possessions. 

The Big Reds once again responded with a 54 yard kickoff return by Dominic Sugin to set the Muskegon offense up with a 1st & 10 from the Red Hawk 25 yard line. Muskegon went on to find the endzone on a 1 yard carry by Jakob Price shrinking Cedar’s lead to 7 with 9 minutes left to play. 

From there it was all Cedar Springs as the Red Hawk offense controlled possession for 8 of the last 9 minutes before stopping the Big Red’s last second Hail Mary attempt en route to the team’s 2nd district title in 4 years. 

“I’m proud of our kids! We’ve had a lot of adversity this year obviously with the tragedy and the tough 1 point loss to Catholic Central and they have responded every step of the way” said Coach Gus Kapolka. 

Coach Kapolka went on to say “[On defense] we had a simple gameplan and executed it well. We’ve had our struggles on defense this year, but I felt like we simplified things and let our guys play”. 

Quarterback Aiden Brunin keeps it on the Red Hawk’s Final Drive.

Defensively Aiden Brunin and Alex Ream led the team with 7 total tackles each. On offense Ryan West led the team in rushing with 116 yards and 2 touchdowns on 3 carries. 

With the win the Red Hawks move on to the regional finals, matching up with the 10-1 Dewitt Panthers. The game will be held on Saturday November 13th at 1:00pm at Grand Ledge High School. Tickets should be purchased on the GoFan app or at gofan.co

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