Sunday, December 7, 2008

Muskegon County and the 2008 Football Finals at Ford Field.

Well - as all have no doubt read, the two-days following Thanksgiving were glorious days for the west side of the state, and especially for Muskegon County.

Add to it two crowns for Kent County - Rockford and East Grand Rapids, one for Ottawa County - Holland Christian and quarterback A.J. Westendorp, and one for Grand Traverse County - Traverse City St. Francis - and you had quite the event.

For those interested in such things, this was the second time in state history that four schools from a single county earned state football crowns.

The other occasion? 1999, when Walled Lake Western, Farmington Hills Harrison, Orchard Lake St. Mary and Detroit Country Day all won championships.

While watching the games from seven stories up, I had the chance to think about what I really love about high school sports.

Certainly, one of the most wonderful components is the prominence of the high school band in the pageantry. From the pregame entrances to the playing of the National Anthem to halftime, to post game exit, the showmanship is nothing short of amazing.

One of the lists that I want to compile is the sports-related traditions found at high schools across Michigan (Please send me your favorites at Most that I've uncovered to date involve the marching band.

This year's state finals highlighted a few. Thanks to the wonders of youtube, you can play witness to many more. Here are some I've uncovered:

Marching Bands


Double-Time at Muskegon High School.
The band enters the field of play from the Jefferson Street side of the field. They use a double-time chair step, to enter historic Hackley Stadium to the delight of the crowd.

Each week before a home game, the members of the Oakridge High School marching band take a crash course under the direction of director Mr. Stansell. During pregame the results are unveiled as the band makes the trip to the opponent's side of the field to deliver a version of the visitor's fight song. A true touch of class!

National Anthem: As noted in the Detroit Free Press,

Making music together

The Ubly and (Traverse City) St. Francis marching bands combined before the Div. 7 game to play the national anthem. "The idea was our athletic director's," said Cress Smith, St. Francis' band director. "I contacted (their school), faxed them our parts and we practiced in the stands before the game. We only had about 15 minutes together. They did really well together; it was a beautiful blend."

BTW - did you get to read the heartfelt story about Ubly's trip to the state finals by Joanne C. Gerster in the Detroit News? If not, check it out online before it disappears...

Halftime: How about that script Orion formation by the Lake Orion Marching Band at halftime of the Division 1 contest. It even included the dotting of the " i " ah-la Ohio State.
(Follow this link for details on the "i- Dot" tradition at OSU).

While we're on speaking about the Dragons, did anyone else notice Ubly's football roster included 34 players, while Lake Orion's cheerleading squad numbered 33?

Let's not forget Rockford's "R"...

Being a Muskegon alum, (and since I have a son in the band) I must mention that moment when Muskegon's marching band raised their "BIG REDS" banner and paraded it across Ford Field during their halftime show. The Muskegon faithful exploded applause and cheers. Nothing like tradition. Five MHSAA playoff titles and 12 mythical state crowns and 739 victories (interesting...Lofton Greene won the same number of basketball games during his varsity coaching career!) dating back to 1895. The win total ranks in the top ten nationally and is number one in Michigan. Learn more about the Big Red Band at

Give me a band like the Muskegon Heights Marching Tigers for my halftime entertainment. Fun...Fun...Fun!

Exiting: Then their was Inkster! Filling the mezzanine of beautiful Ford Field with their thundering drumline-sound as they danced their way to the exit. It was a site to see, and the perfect end to a day of football.

Now we head to basketball season. Check out this GREAT video of the Holland Christian Drum Circle. Now that's what I call a drum solo!!!

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