Moment: Eaglets Clinch on Late TD Catch

September 24, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

More than three months had passed since the last time Ky’ren Cunningham had lined up as a receiver for Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. 

But with one last desperate chance to win the Division 3 championship on the line during the 2016 Final, the Eaglets’ running back moved back into unfamiliar territory. 

Cunningham even switched spots in the alignment with teammate Clay Antishin, moving outside as St. Mary’s lined up from the Muskegon 18-yard line trailing 28-23 with 10 seconds to play. 

But Cunningham was in the right spot all along. 

Six seconds later he split a pair of defenders in the Ford Field end zone and hauled in Caden Prieskorn’s pass to give the Eaglets a 29-28 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

“I play running back,” said Cunningham, a junior at the time. “It was one-on-one and the safety didn’t come over the top. Caden just threw it. He just made the read.

“My body felt so weak (when I caught it). I don’t remember much.”

Longtime Detroit sportswriter Tom Markowski described the play’s setup this way in his report for Second Half:

Make no mistake. This was desperation, and it was a makeshift play. Cunningham is a starting running back. The last time he lined up as a receiver was in the first game this season against Macomb Dakota. Coach George Porritt ditched that plan afterward. Cunningham would stay in the backfield.

“It was a pistol right,” Prieskorn said after the game. “All we knew was we were going to have man-on-man coverage.”

 St. Mary’s had entered the playoffs 5-4, running its record to 10-4 with the victory. The championship finished a string of three straight Division 3 titles for the Eaglets.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Ky’ren Cunningham rolls up with the ball tucked after scoring the game-winning touchdown in his team’s 2016 Division 3 championship victory over Muskegon.