MUSKEGON – You have to feel for Keith Guy and Rick Ruel right about now.
For Guy, the Muskegon athletic director, it’s Mona Shores week at Hackley Stadium. For Ruel, Oakridge’s AD, it’s Montague week at Russell A. Erickson Stadium.
Normally, that means overflow crowds at those facilities for two dandy matchups. Huge crowds are a good thing, both in terms of community engagement and the bottom line.
But now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s an entirely different ball game. Muskegon’s and Oakridge’s stadiums will be relative ghost towns as a restricted number of spectators are being allowed into high school facilities across the state.
You might ask, besides reduced revenue, what’s the big problem for Guy and Ruel? Shouldn’t they be on easy street this week with very modest crowds to manage? Not exactly.
It’s not the fans inside the stadiums who concern them so much; it’s what might be happening on the other side of the fence — or wall, as is now the case at Hackley Stadium – that preoccupies the ADs. It’s the die-hards, not allowed into the stadiums, that they’re worrying about. In these strange times, it’s one more thing for ADs and other school administrators to worry about.
Earlier this week, Ruel told me that Oakridge will have to keep an eye on the walk-up fans, those who are not on the list to be admitted into the gates and are eager to sneak a peek from outside the facility by whatever means possible. On Wednesday, Guy sent a message to those fans not on the pass list at Hackley: Sorry you can’t be here, but you’re prohibited unless you’re on the list. Buy the live stream.
As has been noted repeatedly, the Muskegon area is full of passionate high school football fans. They’ll go great lengths to follow it and be involved. For example, last week in Ravenna, a couple of proud alumni got creative and climbed about 20 feet up a tree overlooking school property to catch a glimpse of the game against Whitehall.
Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Be safe and smart out there, football fans. And to Keith Guy and Rick Ruel: Godspeed.
Last week’s record: 15-1 (93.8 percent)
Season record: 15-1 (93.8 percent)
Best pick last week: Kent City 22, Morley Stanwood 20: Turns out, I didn’t give Kent City enough credit. The young Eagles went on the road and posted a shutout, 16-0, against the defending CSAA Silver Division champs. Great springboard win.
Worst pick last week: Fremont 20, Newaygo 14. Yeah, so this prediction was a little offer. The game was tied through three quarters before Newaygo poured it on in the fourth for a 42-14 victory. New coach is trying to instill a new attitude in Fremont, but it’s a process.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK
Mona Shores (1-0, 1-0 OK Green) at Muskegon (1-0, 1-0), 7 p.m. Friday: It just doesn’t get any better in the Muskegon area than with this grudge match. Montague-Oakridge certainly gives it a run for its money, especially in terms of the outcome being in doubt in recent seasons. But there’s something about crosstown rivals and a pair of big-school heavyweights settling it on the field, which is what we have with the Big Reds and Sailors programs. It really is a shame that fans will not be able to pack impressively renovated Hackley Stadium for this one, but look on the bright side – at least this game is happening and we have football.
Prediction: Muskegon 34, Mona Shores 28
Montague (1-0, 1-0 West Michigan Conference) at Oakridge (1-0, 1-0), 7 p.m. Friday: This is my third season predicting high school football outcomes for MLive Muskegon Chronicle. In 2018, I predicted Oakridge to win and Montague pulled out a final-play thriller. Last season, I went with Montague for the victory and Oakridge got it done in overtime. Too early to spot a trend? Guess we’ll see sometime around 9:15 p.m. Friday. Wish I could see it in person, although we’re planning complete coverage of this outstanding matchup, including a photographer at the game.
Prediction: Montague 27, Oakridge 20
Reeths-Puffer (0-1, 0-1 OK Green Conference) at Holland (0-1, 0-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Hope College: Let’s use recent history as a guide in this one. Last season, Reeths-Puffer was shut out in the opener against a solid Grand Haven team (24-0), but the Rockets rebounded nicely the following week for its biggest win of the season (35-21 over South Christian). Last week, the Rockets were blanked by a very good Mona Shores team (55-0). Matt Bird was not happy after that loss to the Sailors. Something tells me he’ll have his team ready this Friday.
Prediction: Reeths-Puffer 22, Holland 20
Benton Harbor (0-1) at Muskegon Catholic Central (1-0), 7 p.m. Friday: This is the first of two healthy nonleague tests in a row for the Crusaders, who travel to Sparta next week. MCC lost at home to Benton Harbor two years ago, 41-21, and last year the Crusaders went on the road and earned a hard-fought 18-8 victory over the Tigers. MCC should be able to take care of business this week. The Crusaders just need to stay relatively healthy.
Prediction: Muskegon Catholic Central 30, Benton Harbor 14
Kent City (1-0, 1-0 CSAA Silver) at Hesperia (1-0, 1-0), 7 p.m. Friday: Both teams are feeling good coming off impressive season-opening victories last week. Youngsters spearheaded the effort for Kent City, whose program is in a good place in coach Bill Crane’s sixth season. Meanwhile, Hesperia hadn’t won an opener since 2016, but the Panthers made it look easy against Lakeview and they seem to have an air of confidence with these players and coaching staff.
Prediction: Kent City 24, Hesperia 22
OTHER MUSKEGON-AREA PREDICTIONS
(All games kick off at 7 p.m. Friday.)
- (At) Hudsonville 28, Grand Haven 14
- (At) Fruitport 22, Holland Christian 21
- Spring Lake 28, (at) Coopersville 21
- (At) Manistee 26, Orchard View 20
- Ludington 28, Michigan Center 20 (at Clare)
- (At) Whitehall 55, Shelby 6
- (At) North Muskegon 49, Hart 6
- Ravenna 30, (at) Mason County Central 14
- (At) Grant 32, Fremont 14
- Newaygo 22, (at) Howard City Tri County 20
- (At) Holton 26, Lakeview 12
- Morley Stanwood 24, (at) White Cloud 14
More high school football coverage:
Muskegon AD: Not on pass list for Mona Shores game? Watch stream, don’t show up
Evolution of iconic Hackley Stadium: Century-old Muskegon venue goes from classic to ‘Wow!’
Top 50 Michigan high school football teams: New week, new No. 1 team
See how things shake out in first Muskegon-area football power rankings of 2020
Vote for Muskegon-area football player of week in season openers
Strange high school football season kicks off in Michigan
Must-see games for second week of the Michigan high school football season
Muskegon Catholic Central, Sparta fill football schedules with game next week