By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal

Two tradition-rich high school football programs in the state of Michigan will be butting heads on Friday with a Division 2 state title on the line.

The No. 2-ranked Muskegon Big Reds and No. 3-ranked Birmingham Brother Rice will battle at 1 p.m. at Ford Field in Detroit.

“If we make sure we take care of business and win, then everyone here on the west side and throughout our bracket can say the best team won and they can hold their heads high because they will also have gotten us to that point,” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said.

Birmingham Brother Rice comes into the title game with two regular-season losses and both those teams also will be playing at Ford Field this weekend. Brother Rice lost to Detroit Cass Tech, which is playing in Saturday’s Division 1 championship game and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, a finalist in Division 3.

Muskegon defeated Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the season opener, 21-14 at Hackley Stadium.

Coach Fairfield will be facing off against the winningest coach in the history of Michigan high school football. Al Fracassa, 80, has been patrolling the sideline 53 years and has won more than 400 games.

Last week in the state semifinals, Brother Rice routed Wyandotte Roosevelt 31-3. Running backs Shon Powell and Brian Walker are a solid in the backfield.

Defensively, Michigan State commit Jon Resche, a linebacker, is a player to watch.

Muskegon is coming off a 34-21 victory over Caledonia in a game that Fairfield saw some rare emotion from his players.

“This is the most emotion after a victory you’ve ever seen out of those guys,” Fairfield said. “They are very low key and sometimes they scare me because they are not a ‘rah rah’ and they aren’t a ‘hang your head’ team.

“They’ve got that steady heartbeat, which I ask for but you never get it. This team is actually there.”

The Big Reds will be looking for their first state title since 2008 while Brother Rice is the defending state champs.


* Tickets are priced at $10 and that is good for all four games. Muskegon sold close to 1,000 tickets last Monday and Tuesday.

* Public parking near the stadium costs $6.

* The game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit and on two area radio stations: WVIV-FM 100.1 and WMRR-FM 101.7.

* A celebration of the Big Reds’ football season will take place Sunday at 3 p.m. at Redmond-Potter Gymnasium. The event is open to the public.