River Rouge Panthers are State Champions
Upset Muskegon Big Red at Ford Field
December 12, 2019
Everything led up to The MHSAA Division 3 state finals. The slot scheduled to be the last football game of 2019 belonged to Muskegon's undefeated Big Reds. The Big Reds were ranked number one by Michigan Associated Press, and kept high rankings through the country. The Big Reds were led by explosive senior quarterback Cameron Martinez. Martinez has committed to Ohio State, and has won MLive's Michigan Football Player Of The Year on two occasions. This is also not his first occasion at Ford Field. Under Coach Shane Fairfield, Muskogen has been to Ford field the past seven of eight years. Their only victory was against Farmington Hills Harrison in 2017.
For Coach Fairfield and Martinez to achieve the perfect season, the Big Reds had to knock off the River Rouge Panthers. Under Coach Corey Parker the Panthers only loss comes from Grand Rapids Catholic Central in game one. The Panthers spent the later half of the playoffs, and Parker's ten year career the underdogs. River Rouge faced off against Grand Rapids West Catholic in 2015 for the first title appearance in school history, but fell short to the Falcons 40-36
Half of Ford Field, the state of Michigan, and most reporters on mainstream media outlets gave the finals to Muskegon. In reality, the world was waiting on the last episode of the Cameron Martinez show to start. It was predicted that the Big Reds were to completely overwhelm the Panthers.
The game started with Rouge winning the coin toss, the Panthers opted to get the ball after halftime. Cameron Martinez made a handful of impressive plays, but the Panther's defense caused the offense a scoreless first drive. The Panthers took over on offense to hear the same song; Mareyohn Hrabowski and De'Andre Bulley's chance to score on the first drive were halted by Muskegon defense.
For both teams, the first quarter was used to get comfortable and knock off the jitters. The Big Reds shook the nerves off as Martinez scored with thirty-nine seconds left in the first quarter. Rouge couldn't immediately return the score, but the defense kept Muskegon at bay. Xavier Smith was notoriously responsible for the Pather's pass game and conversions. Smith was able to move the chains, setting Hrabowski up for a game tying run.
The MHSAA Division 3 Finals went to halftime with Muskegon having seven points to River Rouge's fourteen.
River Rouge gained good field position after the kick off. It didn't take much for the Panthers to get started. Fourteen seconds into the third quarter; some spectators were still heading back to their seats. Mareyohn Hrabowski busted open a big run to give the Panthers a deeper edge.
Martinez put the city of Muskegon, and the Big Reds on his back. But the Defense wouldn't allow him to perform to the standards Muskegon fans have seen all year. The Ohio State commit played hard, but was sacked on key plays by Darieon Jones. Martinez couldn't complete a pass against River Rouge's Ronnie Smith, Armorion Smith, David Carter Jr, or LeRoy Watson Jr.
Once the score became 21-7 the Panther's sideline started to glow. River Rouge was on the board but Corey Parker and his team kept their paws and teeth on the Big Reds. At the start of the fourth; the Panthers were up fourteen points on the best football team in the state.
The last quarter of Michigan football started with a huge run by Hrabowski. The drive ended with a thirty-two yard field goal from senior kicker Avery Bruch. The visitor's side of Ford Field and the minority of Michigan Football fans still couldn't believe the scoreboard. De'Andre Bulley blasted them to reality with a thirty-three yard touchdown. Burch's extra point was unsuccessful, bringing the score 30-7.
The same score that ended the game and gave River Rouge its first state football championship in school history.
The Panthers have been celebrating since Saturday. News coverage, pep rallies, and visits from college coaches have all blessed the young men at Rouge. This is a well deserved victory for the city, the school, and everyone who has put on a maroon football jersey.
Congratulations to the River Rouge Football team and their dynamic support system. Good luck next season