A big stage, a tough opponent and a hot day are all difficult things for a high school football program to deal with.
Lake Fenton played at Eastern Michigan University on Saturday as part of the 7th Annual Big Day Prep Showdown against a very physical Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard squad, which made it to the Division 5 quarterfinals in 2010, on an afternoon when the temperature reached 84 degrees and the field turf felt even hotter.
And although the Blue Devils lost 19-13 in the season opener, they showed their toughness.
“Last year we may have been lacking some guts, that intestinal fortitude,” said Lake Fenton coach Eric Doyle. “Every kid was digging down and clawing today. I’m proud of the kids.”
When the Fighting Irish slugged Lake Fenton in the mouth, the Blue Devils weren’t afraid to slug back. Gabriel Richard marched from its own one-yard line to deep in LF territory in the fourth quarter on a 21-play drive with a 19-7 lead, but the Blue Devils stood their ground, didn’t allow any points and then marched right back for a score of their own.
Many Lake Fenton players suffered cramps during the game but refused to come off the field. The players relished the opportunity to play on the big stage.
“It was a great feeling with all the fans and the different environment,” said Lake Fenton running back Robby Kesler, who was named the Blue Devils' Most Outstanding Player for the game. “I felt like I had to play my best or I would let everyone down.”
“There was huge bleachers and tons of fans,” said Lake Fenton linebacker Chase Hull. “It was an experience I’ll never forget.”
Despite the loss, Doyle said participating in the event, which featured eight games, was a big positive for the Lake Fenton program.
“It’s a great thing for a high school kid,” Doyle said. “It was a no-brainer to accept the invite, and we have no regrets. We could have stayed home and played a lesser football team, but we’d rather play a tough team down here.”
The squad also stuck around to watch Birmingham Brother Rice and Detroit Martin Luther King Jr. to soak in the atmosphere even more.
The Blue Devils face another challenge in one of the few Friday games this week as they host Mt. Morris, a team they defeated 33-30 last year.
“We are going to be a tough team to play,” Doyle said. “We are not taking a backseat to anyone.”