Week 4: G.R. Christian vs. Muskegon Reeths-Puffer
by DREW KERR and DAVE MITCHELL
Welcome football fans to week four of the Friday Night Lights Experience (FNLE). This week FNLE traveled to Eagle Stadium, home of the Grand Rapids Christian Eagles as they faced off against the Rockets of Muskegon Reeths-Puffer. Clear skies and a cool autumn air provided the perfect environment for these two Division III programs to square off in a battle between the OK White (G.R. Christian) and the OK Black (Muskegon).
Having never visited Eagle Stadium previously, we weren’t sure what to expect going into the evening. Our anticipation was very high and, as always, we didn’t expect our host to let us down. Driving up Plymouth Avenue toward G.R. Christian, we could see the outline of the stadium and school and we knew we were about to be pleasantly surprised. We pulled into the school parking lot and were shown where to park from volunteers directing traffic. The school lot provided ample parking for the game and was well organized, thanks to the efforts of all the lot attendants.
As we enter the stadium it is obvious that this newly completed facility was built for a program that is on the rise. The stadium seats approximately 3,600 spectators, offers an indoor merchandise shop, an observation deck overlooking the field of play for group outings or special events, and an artificial turf area designated for pre-game dining. All this was a sign to us that Eagle Stadium was designed and built to be the home of many future state championships.
The stadium is located next to the high school and at approximately 5:50 p.m. before every home game the players take what is known as the “Eagle Walk.” The Eagle Walk is a great source of pride for the varsity players as they walk through a tunnel of youth football players, parents, students, fans and sub-varsity players on their way from the school to the field. We can then hear Eagle Stadium pumping out music over the P.A. for pre-game warm-ups, which seem to be setting the stage for a clash of college titans rather than two non-rival high school teams.
After spending some time taking in the sights and sounds of the pre-game activities it was time to get down to business and hit the concession stands. There were three options for food at the stadium, but all three were serving the same items. We had the option of eating outside the stadium at the “tailgaters’ tent “or eating inside the stadium at either the “Eagles Grill” or the “VE Café,” which are the primary concessions. The selection of items available was a bit limited and the pricing was a little more than other stadiums we had visited, but let’s not kid ourselves—anything freshly grilled makes for a good game day meal! For a concession area sponsored by VanEerden Foods, you would think that there would be a larger variety of food choices and even a small break on pricing.
After loading up with our pre-game meal, we decided we better head down to the field and get a better look at these two teams. Neither of us had seen either team play before and we were truly intrigued as to how the match-up would play out.
Have you ever met someone for the first time and they make you feel right at home without any reservations or hesitations? Well, as we approached the Eagle sidelines for pre-game, head coach Don Fellows came over and welcomed us to Eagle Stadium and made us feel right at home with the G.R. Christian family.
Just as many other programs have a very excited and loud student body, so did the Eagle nation. The students from G.R. Christian may have been the most raucous student body section we’ve seen yet, and we later found out from a student body representative that Coach Fellows had a plan for not only the football team but for the whole program itself.
We were made aware that Coach Fellows was trying to install a sense of pride and enthusiasm in the Eagle program and watches over all aspects of the program, not just what happens on the field but also what’s going on off the field. He listens to the request of the student body and works with them on ideas that make for a more enjoyable and rowdy environment. Well, he must be doing his job right, because we noticed a celeb sighting at Eagle Stadium—Michigan State basketball head coach Tom Izzo was in attendance and once again brought the “Eagles Nest” (the student body section) to its feet when he gave a thumbs up for all their enthusiasm.
Even though G.R. Christian doesn’t have a halftime show or band, you can bet that with the continued direction of their coaching staff and administration, they’re not far from it. Way to go, Eagle nation and Coach Fellows!
Although the night did not end well for the visiting Rockets from Reeths-Puffer, it did for the G.R. Christian Eagles and it also took another step closer to developing the type of program their coaches and administration have been looking to accomplish. With a few small enhancements for the overall FNLE, the Eagles will proudly be able to proclaim they are truly one of the best in the game!
OUR RATING: 8.2—Parking 9; Pre-game Activities 8; Facilities* 8.5; Concessions* 7; Student Body* 10; Halftime Show 5; Atmosphere 8.5.
Next week we will be visiting the home of the Big Reds from Muskegon as they try to defend their turf against the visiting Rams of Rockford. For any comments or questions, please feel free to follow Drew and Dave on Twitter @FNLExperience.