Muskegon hadn’t lost to a team from the state of Michigan this season heading into the Division 3 championship game against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
The Big Reds (12-2) left Ford Field with a heart-breaking 29-28 loss after quarterback Caden Prieskorn hit Kyren Cunningham with an 18-yard TD pass with four seconds left.
It was a three-peat for the Eaglets, the first in school history.
“I’ve been playing with Kyren ever since I was a little kid," said Prieskorn, who passed for 200 yards and two touchdowns. “I knew if I just threw it up to him I knew he’d make a play. I knew he was going to catch it."
St. Mary’s became just the fifth team to win a state title with just five regular-season victories, according to the MHSAA. Farmington Hills Harrison (1999), Brother Rice and Flint Powers (2011) and Grand Rapids West Catholic (2013) were the others.
After Eaglets (10-4) placekicker Ben Fee launched a state finals record 49-yard field goal through the Ford Field uprights for a 23-21 lead, Muskegon’s Clinton Jefferson Jr. returned the ensuing kick 49 yards to midfield.
A 21-yard run by La’darius Jefferson got the Big Reds to the Eaglets 7, where eventually he scored from three-yards out with 1:55 left to give Muskegon the lead.
“I’ve never been in this situation before," said Prieskorn. “They came down and scored and we had a chance to make plays."
OLSM drove to the Muskegon 18 with 10 seconds left before Prieskorn hit Cunningham in the right corner of the end zone for the victory.
“It was the greatest play I’ve ever made in my life," said Cunningham. “The guy overplayed the ball. I cut back, went up for it, grabbed it; came down with it. I didn’t see any flags. Everything to God."
OLSM spotted the Big Reds a 14-3 lead, but with 6 minutes, 15 seconds left in the third quarter had taken a 20-14 advantage on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Prieskorn.
Kalil Pimpleton got the lead back for Muskegon on an 18-yard run with 11:22 to play to make it 21-20.
Fee then boomed his kick with 4:47 left to give the Eaglets a two-point lead.
“I asked for an A effort today and you guys gave it to me," said St. Mary's coach George Porritt after the game. “That was a great team you beat."
Muskegon’s quickness was evident early as Pimpleton scampered 18-yards untouched for the game’s first score with 9:59 left in the first quarter to give the Big Reds a 7-0 lead.
Fee kicked a 32-yard field goal with 3:35 left to give the Eaglets their first points of the game.
Twice St. Mary’s converted fourth downs to keep its initial drive alive, before Fee kicked a 32-yard field goal with 3:35 left to make it 7-3.
La’darius Jefferson hit Pimpleton with a 54-yard bomb, setting the Big Reds up for their second TD on a four-yard scamper with 8:30 left in the first half for a 14-3 lead.
On the Eaglets next possession running back Rashawn Allen had runs of 32 and 14 yards, but St. Mary’s had to settle for a 35-yard field goal from Fee to make it 14-6.
Shermond Dabney intercepted a Pimpleton pass and returned it to the Big Reds 30 with 1:19 left in the half.
The Eaglets turned the miscue into 29-yard pass from Prieskorn to Clay Antishin with 35 seconds left to make it a one-point game at halftime, 14-13.
“We controlled our own destiny until we got to the last game," said Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield. “No one wants to win more than me and these kids. We’re going to stick to the grind and hopefully we’ll get it."