MUSKEGON, Mich. — La’Darius Jefferson grew up in Muskegon, but he spent his first season of high school football playing in Mississippi.
Jefferson moved back to Muskegon for his junior season and it didn’t take long for him to make his mark.
He shared quarterbacking duties last fall on a state runner-up team and took over on a full-time basis in 2017.
Although he played in just two full games because of lopsided scores posted by the 13-0 Big Reds, Jefferson has totaled 50 touchdowns between rushing and passing going into Saturday’s state finals against Farmington Hills Harrison.
For his efforts, Jefferson has been named the Player of the Year on the Division 3-4 Associated Press All-State team selected by a media panel.
Jefferson has talked team over individual awards all season. Muskegon lost in the final seconds of last year’s Division 3 state finals to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and the motivation of the heart-breaking loss has kept the Big Reds hungry all season.
Jefferson said he learned from the sidelines and when on the field together last season with Pimpleton, an AP co-Player of the Year who moved on to Virginia Tech as a slot receiver.
“I felt like I learned how to be a leader by watching him. Learned how to control the game and just play hard,” Jefferson said. “Do what I do, play me, and don’t have to force anything. Let the game come to me and have fun.”
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior is a load to tackle and has rushed behind a big offensive line for 1,850 yards and 29 touchdowns on 194 carries. He is 67-of-115 passing for 1,205 yards and 21 TDs. He worked hard to improve his footwork and timing as a passer since last year.
Jefferson made a verbal commitment as a quarterback to the University of Central Florida in May, but reopened his recruiting recently after an offer came from Michigan State. He also is high on the list of Indiana and Iowa and hopes to play quarterback in college.
“He still cares more about his team and its accomplishments. That’s all you have to say about that guy,” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said.
Jefferson is joined on the all-state team by quarterback Theo Day of Dearborn Divine Child, and running backs James Daniel of Belding, Nolan Fugate of Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Thomas Griggs of Wyoming Kelloggsville, Jo Jo Whitley of Comstock Park and Cody Blankenburg of Lansing Sexton. The receivers are Hunter Spence of Comstock Park, Cody Tierney of Grand Rapids Northview, Noah Koenigsknecht of DeWitt and Blake Underwood of East Lansing.
The linemen are Michael Furtney of Milan, Ronnie Buford of Chelsea, Max Lundeen of East Grand Rapids, Jalen Mayfield of Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Antwan Reed and Eli Jackson of Muskegon, Chris Griffin of Edwardsburg and Aidan Hutchinson of Dearborn Divine Child.
The linebackers are Ovie Oghoufo of Farmington Hills Harrison, Brycin Alexander of Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills, Boone Bonnema of Zeeland East and Kolin Demens of Detroit Country Day. Defensive backs are Clinton Jefferson of Muskegon, Luke Tomczyk of Lake Fenton, Scott Wunder of Escanaba and Reggie Pearson of River Rouge.
The specialist is Daraun McKinney of River Rouge while Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Ben Fee is the kicker and Luke Elzinga of Grand Rapids Christian the punter.
The coach of the year is Joe D’Angelo of Cranbrook.
Voting was by a panel of AP member sportswriters from around the state.