BY SAMANTHA ELLIOTT
For the first time in the program’s history, the Grosse Ile varsity football team will be opening its season on the big stage. The Red Devils’ 2017 gridiron debut will be against Almont at Wayne State for the Detroit Sports Commission Prep Kickoff Classic.
The Prep Kickoff Classic is the premiere season-opener for Michigan football teams and the 2017 campaign will mark both the Red Devils’ and the Raiders’ first appearances. The opportunity fit perfectly into the Grosse Ile season.
“It’s been a struggle to find a non-league game,” Grosse Ile Coach John Bodner said. “Almont wanted to play us and we worked it out instead of traveling all the way to Almont, we’re meeting in the middle. It made it a little easier.”
With both teams coming into the season as playoff contenders, those in attendance are bound to see a nice showdown.
Almont has made the playoffs the better part of the last decade, while Grosse Ile comes in fresh off a playoff appearance and its first Huron League championship in 30 years following an 8-2 finish last year.
“This presented itself and it’s a good opportunity for both teams to get a chance to play in an event that special and different from most opening games in August.” Bodner said. “We’re excited for that.”
The Red Devils will enter the contest with a young squad after graduating a strong core this June, but do return several key players including Jack McGrath, Kenny Marks, Collin Bammer, Lewis Will, Luke Harwood and Logan Brodeur.
“We had a great senior class so we’ve gotta replace them,” Bodner said. “I’ve got a really young team so this is a good way to motivate the guys. They’re excited. It’s a good chance to play at Wayne State; it’s a college stadium (and) it’s a great facility and the kids are real excited.”
Bodner said his kids can stay hyped and motivated for week one because right now, that’s all their focus.
“This is why it’s good for us,” he said. “Everything we do is about that first game; that’s the bottom line. We’ve got too many good teams, it’s like you can’t look ahead to anything. I have no clue if we’ll play in week 10; for us it’s just about week one.”
Grosse Ile senior Jack McGrath is thrilled with the opportunity to play in the Kickoff Classic.
“Playing in the Detroit Prep Kickoff Classic will be a great opportunity to see what we are made of against a great team in Almont,” McGrath said. “I’m very excited to start my senior season on a big stage. I believe we have talent coming into the 2017 season, including strong senior leadership along with a great coaching staff.”
With his experience, McGrath plans to help his younger teammates through the journey.
“I plan to lead both vocally and by example,” he said. “If the juniors and sophomores make mistakes early on, it’s important to keep their heads up and stay focused. If I learned anything from last season, it was that good team chemistry can build a strong team.”
Kickoff is 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25.