NORTON SHORES, Mich. — Hundreds of Mona Shores fans and supporters filled the stands at the high school's gym Sunday evening to celebrate the football team's first state title in school history.
Mona Shores won the Division 2 state championship game against Detroit Martin Luther King, 35-26 on Friday. The community was invited to celebrate the accomplishments of the team on Sunday.
At the event, the coaches and parents involved in the program spoke to the crowd, congratulating the players and saying thank you to the community. They also watched a highlight reel of the championship game, which was accompanied with the song "We Are the Champions," by Queen.
The score board in the Mona Shores gym displayed the final score from the state championship game: 35-26.
Head coach Matt Koziak was greeted with a standing ovation when he stood up to address the crowd. Koziak is credited with turning the football program around. He was hired in 2011, and three years later he took the Sailors to the state finals for the first time.
"You keep hearing the word 'unbelievable," Koziak said. "I wish there was a better word I could use. But this season, you look at what these young people did for this community and this program."
Koziak then explained how going into the 2019 season, the Sailors lost nine starters on defense—eight of whom went on to play college ball. They also moved one player to a brand new position, and their star quarterback came into the season injured.
"And what these boys do, all they do is hope to win the first state championship in the history of the school—with all that going on," Koziak said to the audience, saying this season is almost as incredible as a movie script.
"These young men right here, they aren't the most talented group that we've ever had here," he said. "We've had some really, really talented teams. But talent doesn't win state championships...what wins state championships is kids that are able to grind, be resilient, intrepid and 100 percent the most important thing is together."
Those four traits were the focus of the Sailors' season, with the acronym 'GRIT.' Koziak said that word couldn't fit this team more.
After winning the state title, Mona Shores players were thankful for the support they received and they also were amazed at being a part of the team that is bringing home the trophy.
"Twenty, 30 years from now, I can look back and be like, 'Dang. I won a state championship—the first state championship in Mona Shores history,'" said Tre Hatcher, a running back, after the game. "But it's a great feeling to be a part of this, knowing we came from being everybody's homecoming game to now being a big powerhouse in Michigan."
The players were also given a standing ovation when Koziak said, despite all the obstacles, they won the state title for their community.
"It feels so amazing to be the first class to bring a state championship title to Mona Shores. We've all worked so hard for it," said senior lineman Blake Bustard.
In West Michigan, Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Muskegon also competed for state titles this weekend. In Division 4, GRCC won their fifth state title in a blowout against Detroit Country Day. Muskegon fell to River Rouge, 30-7.
Other stories on 13 ON YOUR SIDE:
- Muskegon falls to River Rouge in the state championship game
- Grand Rapids Catholic Central football wins 5th state title
- 3 local high school coaches nominated for Detroit Lions Coach of the Year
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