Drew Kerr

Friday Night Lights Experience—Week 9: Rockford Rams vs. Jenison Wildcats

October 27, 2011 // 0 Comments

Alone at the top  by DREW KERR and DAVE MITCHELL It seems like only yesterday pre-season two-a-day practices were starting and the question around many communities was whether or not their local high school football team would rise to the occasion and make the playoffs. And even better, would they be good enough to hoist the coveted state championship trophy in the end? Fast forward to October 21 and the last regular season game of the year. Dreams are ending as some teams fail to make the playoffs, while other dreams are just beginning as the playoffs are just around the corner. Tonight, the Friday Night Lights Experience (FNLE) headed to David McKenzie Stadium, as the Jenison Wildcats hosted the rival Rams from Rockford. The Rams looked to finish the season with a win and capture the outright championship of the OK Red conference. While on the other side of the ball, the Wildcats were looking to play the role of spoiler and hand the Rams their first conference loss. As we enter Wildcat country, the feel of parking shouldn’t be a problem. The lack of Wildcat support for Friday’s game would only make our access easier. The Wildcats have endured a rough season and had only notched two wins up to this point. Even with an abundance of parking options available, we did notice one feature that Jenison took advantage of that made the Wildcats stand out on our FNLE ranking. The host Wildcats had shuttle access available to the gate for anyone needing assistance for Friday night’s game. Passing through the gates into David McKenzie Stadium, we notice that the overall atmosphere seemed a bit subdued and also lacked the energy and emotion that typically comes from a Rockford-versus-Jenison game, especially since these two teams have been regularly doing battle since 1972. This is a stadium that was built to host nothing short of the best and it shows. The facility is amazing, but the lack of pre-game activities gave us the feeling that this was a community that was ready for the season to come to an end, to try to determine what went wrong and start fresh again next season. The cold fall air and clear night provided the perfect backdrop […]


September 22, 2011 // 0 Comments

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 […]

Friday Night Lights Experience

September 15, 2011 // 0 Comments

Week 3: Union Red Hawks versus East Grand Rapids Pioneers For the last two weeks, FNLE has covered games that included the Rockford Rams. Well this week we left the comfort of the OK Red and headed to Memorial Field to watch the East Grand Rapids (EGR) Pioneers host the Union Red Hawks. Even though this was a non-conference game and one with not much history, our expectations were high as we headed to the home of the five-time Division III state champions. We arrived at Memorial Field an hour prior to kickoff and were able to park right next to the stadium. This took us by surprise—how were we able to park so close to the stadium this close to kickoff? Normally parking in the street is not the most ideal situation for people. However, looking around at the beautiful houses that surround the stadium, we felt pretty secure in our parking selection. While chatting with the Pioneer fans, we learned that, with the exception of two small school lots, the only available parking for games is street parking. Heading in to the game, we anticipated a lot of pre-game energy—maybe some face painting, signs to fire up the team, at the very least cheerleaders getting the fans ready to push their team toward a sixth consecutive state championship. Instead, we were greeted with, well, nothing. Memorial Stadium is beautiful! It sits across the street from Reeds Lake, which can be seen from the home side bleachers. The stadium seats approximately 5,000 people and 30 minutes prior to kickoff there were still a plenty of seats available, which only further proved that this was not a rivalry game by any stretch of the imagination. The field sports the artificial multi-toned turf that we have grown accustomed to seeing at the “Ted.” Unlike the “Ted,” there is only one scoreboard with no play clocks to be found. The field is recessed—surrounded by brick and a two-level press box, giving the stadium a collegiate feel. As we walked around the stadium to build up our appetites, we ventured inside a small enclosed shed that acted as a bookstore, selling all kinds of EGR gear—great idea for fundraising! The main concession stand is near the primary entrance […]

Friday Night Lights Experience

September 8, 2011 // 0 Comments

Week Two—The Rams vs the Rams? Sometimes you don’t know how lucky you have it until you see what other people and other places have. Week two we visited the “Ted” as many Rockford residents call it, Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium at Rockford High School. The Rams of Holt decided to make the hour plus journey to Rockford for the FNLE. Even though it was a holiday weekend for the Rams of Rockford, it’s loyal following of over five thousand fans packed the Ted as usual, thus living up to the consistent hype of how well the community backs the Rockford football program. But we wanted to see how will the “Ted” live up to the FNLE ranking?? Heading into Ram nation we notice the parking is filling up almost two hours prior for a more traditional rivalry. It’s not that Rockford versus Holt isn’t a big game, but it doesn’t have the allure of the week one Rockford versus Lowell or a Rockford versus Muskegon game may bring. The nice thing about Rockford parking is that they have the freshmen center nearby which allows for an abundance of overflow parking seeming almost natural. This is great for a dad of with two young daughters, that don’t want to walk a mile to get to the gates. My girls Peyton and Jordan made me promise to ensure our readers I’d let them know they helped grade the Rockford event. There is one difference in parking we notice that Rockford doesn’t have compared to other venues, a media lot. This kind of bums us out since we forgot to utilize it for the Lowell game. Walking into Ram stadium you’re greeted by cheerleaders rallying the fans for tonight’s match up and also painting the faces of many young Rams. And yes, we had to stop to have a Ram and an insignia “R” put on the girls cheeks. Then you pass a few corporate displays and a promo event offering a chance to win a new car. This is a first, not many high schools have much more than a 50/50 drawing, yet the chance to drive home in a new ride. We then grab our tickets and enter the Ted, we notice Rockford has many […]

Friday Night Lights Experience

September 1, 2011 // 0 Comments

Week One — The Red Arrows host the Rams If week one is any type of projection of those to come, then fans, we’re in for some kind of treat. This week we will recap the Lowell vs Rockford game from the eyes of a fan and not a reporter. Keep in mind we are Ram fans but our loyalty lies with the experience and not with the outcome of the game. Some of you may be wondering how we plan on rating these experiences and if we have any bias, well although we admit it’s not fail proof, we also think our system is very fair throughout. We judge the FNLE, and not the performance of the teams. We calculate an overall rating between 1 and 10 based on 7 categories of which 3 are double weighted due to the overall significance of the experience. As we arrive in Red Arrow country we immediately notice that this is no ordinary game for the Lowell program. The parking lot is filling up and it’s only 4:45 p.m. and kickoff isn’t until 7 p.m. So we decide to take a spot on the outer edge of the lot in hopes that we might get a jump on the crowd when it comes to an end. Another thing about parking for the big game that we notice is that even with the magnitude of tonight’s game, there isn’t anyone really manning the parking lots or any information regarding where the fans should park. On a side note, the media lot did have two parking guides, but shouldn’t the media know where to go?? Funny thing, we didn’t. As we walk up to the front gates things are a little hectic but the Lowell staff seems to have a pretty good handle on everything going on. We enter the gates greeted by cheerleaders from Lowell welcoming all fans, not just the home crowd. We do notice that for such a large local rivalry there’s really no corporate sponsorship or pre game activities that we’ve encountered at other venues. We then find a wide array of food stands to which we have no complaints. From a spectators view, this is the best high school selection of food that we’ve […]

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