Predictions for the Top Games: Traverse City public schools to host 6th annual Patriot Game on Friday
Traverse City – The life and legacy of a Kingsley High graduate has affected the lives of so many in the Traverse City school district few could have imagined possible.
Justin Hansen played for coach Tim Wooer in the early 2000s and earned first team all-league honors as he played both guard and defensive end his senior season in 2002. Hansen served in the Marines Special Forces upon graduating and was killed in action in 2012.
Wooer, in his 10th season as head coach at Traverse City West, was deeply moved by Hansen’s death. He still becomes emotional when talking about Hansen. When Wooer learned about Hansen’s death he couldn’t let it pass without doing something, anything that would help people remember Hansen and the impact he had while serving in the armed services, and on his family and to those who knew him.
Wooer, with the aid of people in the community, in the school district and local businesses, started what is known as the Patriot Game. On Friday, at Thirlby Field in Traverse City, the city’s two public high schools, Central and West, will play in the sixth Patriot Game at 7 p.m. West, being the home team this season, will have its student section wear red, Central’s will wear blue.
“(The game) was big to begin with,” Wooer said. “Since we started this, it’s very moving.”
The benefactors of the efforts by Wooer and others are the local charities including Reining Liberty Ranch, Dogs in Honor, VFW and others that aid in the rehabilitation of veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
The Bill Marsh Automotive Group of Traverse City has been at the forefront in the sale of t-shirts, designed by the student senate of both schools, with the proceeds going to benefit the local charities.
One byproduct is a permanent Veterans’ memorial at Thirlby Field, a constant reminder of those who have served.
According to statistics arrived from data supplied by the Department of Veteran Affairs in 2016, approximately 20 veterans commit suicide each day nationwide.
Wooer said one objective of the Patriot Game is to reduce this number.
“I’ve had people come up to me,” Wooer said. “Veterans who served in Vietnam who said they were booed when they returned home. Now, at this event, they’re cheered.
“When we first did this we knew the kids would be touched. When the ball kicks off everything shifts gears.”
In 2010 Hansen spoke to Wooer’s team at West, lending some of his experiences as a player and his life in the Marines. Wooer said he still is moved by that speech and he’s sure those in that locker room haven’t forgotten his words either.
West senior Ryan Hayes, a two-way end who’s one of the top players in the state, also gave a talk this week to the team, specifically to those who are about to play in their first Patriot Game. Hayes’ message was that only by playing in the game will one gain the knowledge of what it means and that those who do partake should consider themselves fortunate.
Central’s top player is also a senior. Sam Sherwin, a 6-3, 250-pound two-way lineman. His brother, Jack, is a defensive end. Another brother, Ben, played last season before graduating this past spring.
Both teams are 2-0 and this is the opener of the Big North Conference season.
Last season Central won both games, 10-8 during the regular season, and 13-12 in the first round of the Division 2 playoffs. Pick: West by 2.
All games are Friday at 7 p.m. unless noted.
Battle Creek Harper Creek (2-0) at Jackson Lumen Christi (2-0): Lumen Christi won the Division 6 title last season but Harper Creek got the best of the Titans, 24-14, last season and has won three of the last five in this series. Pick: Lumen Christi by 2.
Bloomfield Hills (2-0) at Clarkston (2-0): Clarkston hasn’t lost to a team from Bloomfield Hills (Lahser) since 1982. Bloomfield Hills trailed West Bloomfield 24-7 midway through the fourth quarter last week before coming back to win, 28-24. Clarkston’s defense proved its worth here. Pick: Clarkston by 8.
Edwardsburg (2-0) at Paw Paw (2-0): Edwardsburg hasn’t lost a Wolverine Conference game since 2014 when the Eddies dropped a 16-14 decision to Vicksburg. The Eddies have outscored their opponents 134-8 this season and have won five straight in this series outscoring Paw Paw, 234-148. Pick: Edwardsburg by 16.
Flint Carman-Ainsworth (1-1) at Davison (2-0): This game, along with the Midland game later this season, will be Davison’s top tests throughout the remainder of the regular season. Quarterback Cannon Hall has proven to be a fine compliment for Davison Mr. Football candidate, running back Tariq Reid. Pick: Davison by 7.
Livonia Churchill (2-0) at Livonia Stevenson (2-0): Stevenson holds a 33-16 advantage in this series but the teams have split the last 18 games. Stevenson won last season, 24-21. This season Churchill has its offense clicking and this could be the Chargers’ best team since 2012 when they finished 10-1. Pick: Churchill by 5.
Maple City Glen Lake (1-1) at Watervliet (2-0): Glen Lake reached the Division 6 final last season and will take the long trip south to the southwest part of the state. Watervliet scored 72 points last week and 50 in its opener. Nevertheless, Glen Lake poses as a serious challenge. Pick: Watervliet by 3.
Portage Central (2-0) at Stevensville Lakeshore (2-0): It appears to be a three-team race in the SMAC West Division and the winner here will take a big step toward that title. Central won last season, 37-0. Pick: Central by 6.
Rockford (1-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (2-0): Offensively, these two teams couldn’t be much further apart. Mona Shores has scored 83 points and Rockford has managed but 14. Rockford coach Ralph Munger will find a way to keep this close. Mona Shores by 6.
Saline (1-1) at Temperance Bedford (2-0): The top two teams in the Southeastern Conference have an early-season showdown. Both staffs had to replace many of their 2016 starters and Bedford is ahead of the curve at this point. Pick: Bedford by 7.
Last week’s record: 6-4
2017 record: 12-8