By Nate Thompson
DETROIT – Although it was technically just considered a scrimmage, in the eyes of a number of area youth football players, having the opportunity to play at Ford Field on Sept. 11 and 18 was indeed their Super Bowl.
The 9-and-under and 11-and-under teams from the Muskegon Elite football program, the Fremont fifth- and sixth-graders, as well as the Hesperia fifth- and sixth-grade team, each had the chance to play under the bright lights of the Detroit Lions’ home stadium as part of the team’s Football Education program, which each year offers youth teams from around the state the chance to play against another squad in their age division at Ford Field in downtown Detroit.
The team from Hesperia, which also is comprised of a few players from Walkerville, took an unusual path to Detroit. Hesperia Youth Football president Trevor Tinkham said his wife Courtney initially called the Lions’ ticket office inquiring about group prices to bring a number of youth players to Detroit just to watch the Lions in person. Little did they know that a team had dropped out on Sept. 18, giving their fifth- and sixth-graders a chance to play against Reed City at Ford Field.
“It was an awesome experience,” Trevor Tinkham said. “The kids had a lot of fun and I’m sure they made a ton of memories.”
Tinkham’s son, Tanner, a fifth-grade running back and wide receiver, said he was a little bit nervous before the opening snaps, but it soon turned out to be just another game.
“It was very cool,” he said. “We rotated a lot of players in, so everyone got one carry.”
Teammate Chance McGahan, a fifth-grade quarterback and safety, said he was bound and determined to see himself on the JumboTron screen located in Ford Field, so he began waving his arms wildly near the end of the contest.
“I didn’t care, I just wanted to see myself on the big screen,” he said.
The players were also in attendance for the Lions game itself beforehand, and they witnessed an impressive victory over the Washington Commanders.
“The first half, the Lions just destroyed them,” McGahan said. “I was so happy.”
Added Tinkham, “Amon-Ra St. Brown had a record-breaking game and Aidan Hutchinson had three sacks. They both had great games.”
While they technically did not keep score, Trevor Tinkham said Hesperia held Reed City scoreless, while they were able to find the end zone.
A week earlier, the Muskegon Elite 11-and-under team squared off against Fremont and held the Packers scoreless. Muskegon Elite head coach Johnny Lang said cousins Avion Buchanan and Dominique Buchanan each had big games, with Avion scoring on a 40-yard touchdown run and Dominique leading the team in tackles.
“All of our fans there were super hyped,” Lang said. “The kids felt special, for sure.”