With a 4-0 start, Muskegon Heights football turn heads with 0 points
The Muskegon Heights football team's undoubtedly successful start this year may surprise some, but the success has been more than a year in the making for the members of the team.
Muskegon Heights didn't play last year due to Covid-19 restrictions, after having an 0-9 season in 2018 and a 1-8 season during 2019.
Muskegon Heights has set off a 4-0 start and hopes to continue this momentum throughout the regular season and in the playoffs for the first time in almost two years.
The kids have been working for this moment for the last 14 months or so, said head coach Van Paker Jr. Parker, who took over as coach in 2018, said that this group of players has grown with the program and that now they're seeing the work done.
A lot of children that we have, theyve been through it. They started with me when I arrived here, Parker said. This group has been attempting to make footballers happier. Many of them have been on varsity for four years.
Senior wide receiver Ashton Smith said everyone on the team felt they were on their way to turning the corner last year before the season closed down.
Smith said of the unfeated start: I believe were doing what we should have done last year. I had a good feeling last season (about last year). We had a lot of great athletes, said one of his followers.
Players should keep in mind that thats a common refrain. Deccari Moore, a junior defensive end, said last year that it was going to give up some eyes to the program.
Our team last year, we could have done the same thing, Moore said. I believe the team last year could have been a good one.
The four wins are the most Muskegon Heights have had since 2011, when they went 4-4. The last time the Tigers had a 4-0 start, was 2009, oblivious to relegation in the state semifinals. Parker said he was aware during the first seven-on-seven scrimmage of the summer that the team might have a breakthrough year.
Parker said that that seven-on-seven-note scrimmage was an excellent day. We went over to Wyoming and had a wonderful day, he added. A lot of the guys went to camps over the spring and we knew we had a lot more good players in place. It sounded like a summer break.
The start to the season could not have been more ideal. Muskegon Heights won Potterville and Grandville Calvin Christian in the third game of the season, before picking up a forfeit victory over Wyoming Lee in The third match of this season. The Tigers were beaten 34-28 by Manistee last Friday. Muskegon Heights recovered a fumbled punt on the Manistee five-yard line to take its own run.
Smith stated, It was a dog fight. We had a couple bad plays here and there, but the fumbled punt changed the game's flow. Everybody kept their heads up and focused on it.
The Tigers scored the next 21 points, and the two teams traded touchdowns before quarterback JaKari Edwards netted with 5:36 to give the Tiger's 34-28 victory.
It was a wild one. They came out and jumped on us early," Parker said. We got settled in on defense, and we got ready to get started. We had a great time stopping the run. From there, we just fought. They made some impressive plays.
The season's goals are two-fold: win the Lakes Eight Conference and win a state championship. The first goal may be achieved over the next two weeks. The win over Manistee gave the Tigers their first conference win, and they have a game against Ludington on Friday followed by ominous matchup against 3-1 Muskegon Catholic Central on October 1.
Parker has first-hand knowledge of how to handle the road if the team does not make a smooth run into the playoffs. Parker, a 2010 Muskegon Heights graduate, was part of the 2009 team that made its way to the Division 5 state semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Jackson Lumen Christi. Parker is bringing knowledge of that playoff experience to the players.
Moore said he's telling us every day what a person had to do to make the playoffs, to have recollection, how hard i had fought, referring to him. It is helpful since he understands through his own experience what weve encountered. He knows what to do.
One more objective the team has for the year is to reestablish the Tigers as a program that students and fans can take pride in. Smith and Moore both stated that the team frequently talks about how they can establish an identity that extends beyond this year.
Smith said that its OK to bring back winning to Muskegon Heights.
Parker stated he is not sure the players will be aware of the whole scope of what they can accomplish even with that message.
I don't believe they are aware of how much theyre doing right now. They are aware, but I dont know if they are fully aware," Parker said. They know that theyre doing a good job for the program.
Parker stated that even if the goals are lofty, the Tigers stated the team must focus on the next game.
I try my best to keep everyone humble and hungry. As a player, I've never been in this situation. I'm trying to keep them grounded," Parker stated. We remember our early moments when we were 0-9 or 1-8, so we try to stay focused on the task at hand.
The next stage for the Tigers is a game at Ludington on Friday, and the team hopes to keep momentum going.
Moore stated that "Every win we have, the momentum is building." We continue to fight for what we wanted last year.