By Andrew Johnson

KENT CITY – It may be the day before the start of the 2018 Michigan High School Athletic Association football playoffs, but Kent City is already celebrating.

That’s because the Eagles were chosen by Fox Sports Detroit to have their first-round home game, against defending Division 7 state runner-up Saugatuck, broadcast live on the network at 7 p.m. on Friday.

And the network did one better, hosting a pep rally for the school and community on Thursday night.

Kent City comes into the playoffs with an 8-1 record, and has won 26 games in the last three seasons. Those 26 wins match the number of victories the team had between 2005 and 2015.

“We’ve won at least eight games the last three years,” said Kent City head coach Bill Crane.“To see where we were and what we’ve been able to accomplish probably played a part in being chosen to have our game shown.”

Fox Sports Detroit’s Matt Shepard talks to Kent City fans during the live show in the high school gym. Photo/Leo Valdez

The game can be seen on Fox Sports Detroit Plus, as well as the Fox Sports Go app, or online at

“It’s unreal, isn’t it?” Crane said about the TV coverage. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. and we’re very excited. The community has definitely been buzzing about it.”

That buzz isn’t lost on the players, according to standout Kent City running back Gio Weeks.

“I think it’ll be cool,” said Weeks. “It’ll be cool to be on television and show everyone what we can do. We’ve always been more of a team, and I’m not a big hype guy, so I love the opportunity.”

Friday’s pep rally at the high school gym was followed by a cook-out, sponsored by Kroger.

Coach Crane, who is also the Kent City high school principal, welcomed the crowd and introduced Fox Sports Detroit broadcasters Matt Shepard and Brooke Fletchert.

Shepard and Fletcher, the masters of ceremony, recognized the football team, other Kent City athletic teams, as well as the marching band.

The Kent City football teams gets their photo taken wth country singer Gunnar Nyblad of Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys. Photo/Leo Valdez

Eagle fans were treated to a special performance of “Take Me Home,” a song by Gunnar Nyblad of the noted band Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys. The song is about Kent City, where Nyblad graduated from high school in 2006.

“It’s an honor to be invited back into these walls,” Nyblad said about performing at the pep rally. “I played a lot of basketball and football games here. Just to see how these guys’ success has brought the community around is cool.”

Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys will be playing Friday night before the football game, while the two teams warm up.

Throughout the pep rally, Shepard noted how Friday’s broadcast will have the first statewide cable television broadcast of a pre-district football game.

Shepard said he wasn’t sure why Kent City was chosen for the honor, but he’s happy it was.

“I think it’s great,” Shepard told after the pep rally. “The fans here are pretty rabid, and obviously really supportive of their team and the community. That’s the beautiful thing about what high school athletics bring. You can see how much it means to these people.”

At the end of the rally, Fox Sports Detroit gave away raffle prizes, including tickets to Detroit Lions, Pistons and Red Wing games.

“I’m pretty fired up right now,” Crane said. “Hopefully we’re still able to get some sleep tonight. But it was just a great event for the community. We asked Fox if we could include other teams (from the school) and they were open and fine with it. It was a no-brainer for (athletic director) Jason Vogel and I to highlight as many kids as we could.”