By Mike Mattson
Local Sports Journal

Muskegon Heights Public Schools closed a door on varsity football coach Tony Blankenship.

And Blankenship still isn’t sure if another door will open for him coaching football in the Muskegon area this fall. He’s in a waiting game right now and it doesn’t feel good.

“I’m hoping this works out, but you never know,” Blankenship said. “I’m hoping something happens real soon in the next few weeks.”

Blankenship was one of many employees laid off after financial woes reached nearly $12 million in debt at MHPS.

Emergency Manager Donald Weatherspoon was appointed and he established a state-approved charter school system to replace the former public school system.

Management company Mosaica Education recently was named as the education service provider for the newly-created Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System, which plans to offer jayvee and varsity sports this school year.

It has not been determined yet whether football will be one of the sports offerings. It will be quite a challenge, Blankenship said, to sponsor football at this point without a coach in place and official practice starting Aug. 6.

Oakridge and Heights have played a season opener in recent years, but the Eagles have scheduled Forest Hills Eastern for this year’s first game on Aug. 24.

Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said the Big Reds are planning to break a contract with Heights in Week 2 and are having discussions with a school in Sylvania, Ohio.

Fairfield added that seven former Heights varsity players and six underclassmen are enrolled at Muskegon.

Muskegon Catholic is scheduled to host Heights on Oct. 5 as part of the Crusaders’ nine-game slate.

Blankenship has had discussions with officials at Muskegon and Mona Shores about possible employment/coaching opportunities, but nothing has developed.

He also is considering a move to Torrance, Calif., where his three daughters currently live.

It’s a difficult time for Blankenship, who last fall led Heights to a 4-4 record in his first season. The Tigers, who had only five seniors on last year’s squad, won their last two games and played all opponents tough except for a 50-12 loss to Muskegon.

Blankenship believes the Tigers would have continued to improve and make the playoffs with a veteran team returning, led by quarterback DeShawn Thrower, lineman Ronald Jenkins and receiver Kevin Day.

“It’s very frustrating and painful,” Blankenship said about not returning as head coach of the Tigers. “It doesn’t feel good, especially not being able to finish what we started. We had a great group of kids and a community hungry for a traditional winner. I felt we were going to do that. It never came to fruition.”

Blankenship, a Detroit native, is not sure what his future entails, but he plans to keep a positive attitude in the days ahead.

“I will continue to look to coach,” he said. “It’s frustrating I am not a head coach right now. I have a distinct passion for the game. I’ve been blessed to understand my profession so I can get a job as an assistant. But that is not what I came to Muskegon for.”