By Jason Goorman
MUSKEGON HEIGHTS – Officials at Muskegon Heights Academy have agreed to move Friday’s varsity football game from their home field to the visitor’s field, due to concerns expressed by officials from the other school.
That was a big concession for Heights officials to make, considering the opponent’s home field is in Saginaw.
Muskegon Heights Academy announced Monday that Friday’s scheduled game against Saginaw Nouvel, originally slated for 7 p.m. at Phillips Field in Muskegon Heights, will be played at Nouvel’s field at the same time.
Heights officials agreed to make the change due to concern expressed by Nouvel officials about the safety of players, coaches and fans.
The city of Muskegon Heights has been the scene of multiple shootings lately, and a minor who was not a student was found in Muskegon Heights Academy’s high school last week with a loaded shotgun.
Concerns about the situation erupted on Sept. 4, the day of the scheduled Muskegon Heights-Muskegon Catholic football game.
Muskegon Catholic officials announced a few hours before kickoff that they would not be playing, after a city of Muskegon police officer warned them about rumors of potential violence at the game.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association ruled earlier this week that the game would be wiped off each team’s schedule and would not count as a forfeit against Muskegon Catholic. That means the teams will play eight games instead of the customary nine, and can get into the state playoffs with five wins rather than the customary six.
Officials from Saginaw Nouvel called shortly after the MCC game was cancelled and expressed concern, according to Muskegon Heights Athletic Director Glen Metcalf. Nouvel officials offered to pay Muskegon Heights’ expenses for the unplanned trip, and Heights officials accepted.
“We talked over the weekend and this morning and decided to move it,” Metcalf said. “I wanted the coach and players to be able to focus on playing a game. Whether there’s going to be a game or not, that becomes a burden.
“With the timing of all that’s going on, I wanted to come to a conclusion as quickly as possible.
“I wish we were playing at home but we didn’t want to go through another week like with Catholic. Hopefully we don’t have to go through this again this year.”
Next week’s scheduled home game against Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard is still expected to be played at Phillips Field, Metcalf said. Three of the last four games on the schedule are also supposed to be home for the Heights, and thus far there is no indication they might be moved, Metcalf said.
Bay City John Glenn is scheduled to visit on Oct. 2, Detroit Community on Oct. 9 and Orchard View on Oct. 16.
“At this time we haven’t had any other calls from other schools,” Metcalf said. “Our superintendent is talking to other school’s superintendents. I think sometimes you just have to let things weather through and wait for things to calm down and move forward.”
Metcalf and other Heights officials were happy that Saginaw Nouvel officials expressed their concern well before the game was played.
They were unhappy with the lateness of the Muskegon Catholic cancellation, and were upset because Muskegon city police did not give them the same warning they gave MCC officials.
“The proper communication is happening,” Metcalf said. “Hopefully we all can learn to make sure that both parties can understand the situation and it is not a last minute situation.
“I just want to get four more wins right now. I want to give our student athletes a chance to play football and move forward and not worry about the things going around. These type of things and worries do take a toll on the kids, but you have to be the best team no matter what field you go to.
“We have a great group a fans and we hope they will have a chance to see them at home. My job is to make sure we weather this storm and give our athletes the opportunity to play.”