BRUCE BENTLEY: 9 years of memories

By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 1:12 pm on Thursday, December 08, 2011

MEMORABLE CHEERS: Greenville students cheer at one of Bruce Bentley’s most memorable games at Black Field against Traverse City Central in 2005.

Bruce Bentley

For those of you that don’t know I began my area sports career at the current WGLM Radio — formerly Stafford Media Solutions WSCG — as sports director and, later, operations manager. Beginning in January 2001, I have handled radio play-by-play for Greenville football and basketball.

My first Greenville basketball game was Jan. 5, 2001, at Alma. Coincidentally, my first Greenville football game was at Alma on Sept. 28, 2001. That year, my assignment for football was an area game of the week and not strictly Yellow Jackets football. I didn’t begin full time play-by-play for the Yellow Jackets until the 2002 season.

I’ve lost an exact count, but I have had the chance to call nearly 100 games. I put the number closer to 90 because of other commitments and job duties. Wow, I will probably reach the 200-game mark in basketball this year.

With that being said I’ve been around for the good and the bad of Greenville football for the past 10 years.

The past 10 years include the 1-8 mark in 2002 and the nine-win seasons of 2005 and 2010. In between, there have been some memorable and not-so-memorable games. Looking back over the games from the past 10 years it occurs to me I have forgotten more games and players than I can remember.

So many of the games blend together whether they were wins or losses. Others, though, stand out and always will. It’s funny because so many of the games I will never forget took place away from Black Field.
Those include, to name a few, the Lowell games in 2007 (36-29 loss) and 2010 (35-21 win). And the last second defeats in overtime to Holland Christian (thanks Kirk Cousins) in 2006 and at Holland West Ottawa in 2007.

There are a handful that stand out to me from Black Field, four to be exact. Here they are in chronological order.

Aug. 30, 2002 — Belding 41, Greenville 0

As I mentioned before, I did not begin calling all games for Greenville until 2002. So this game was my first experience with the Greenville/Belding rivalry. What an experience it was.

I don’t remember many of the game details other than the Redskins romped to their 12th win in 14 games against Greenville.

What I do remember was the unique venue Black Field (never paid much attention prior) was and what an even more unique rivalry this was. Coming from a large city, it was a surprise to see how involved the entire communities were, not just those with school ties.

This is true year in and year out regardless of season expectations. It’s an incredible way to start the high school football season and one I look forward to each and every year.

Oct. 28, 2005 — Greenville 35, Traverse City Central 7

Obviously, over the years I have become familiar with the history of Greenville football. Like most schools they have good years and bad years. Mostly, just average with mixed success.

And because of the mixed success, hosting a playoff game for the just the second time is school history stands out. In 2005, the Yellow Jackets completed a 7-2 regular season to clinch its second consecutive playoff appearance and just the third in school history.

The opponent was Traverse City Central. Because of Greenville’s impressive season it was the Trojans making the three-hour trip.

The Yellow Jackets cruised from the beginning in the 35-7 win. Zach Waldorf passed for 172 yards with touchdown passes to Ian Wilberding and Jake Waldorf.

The play of the game, however, was the one that put the exclamation point on the game. It was a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown by Roger Craig up the home sideline. The entire stadium went crazy. I can still picture him running along the sideline so close to stepping out of bounds.

Greenville improved to 8-2 and would win the school’s only district title the following week with a 45-7 thrashing of Ottawa Hills at Houseman Field in Grand Rapids.

Oct. 15, 2010 — Greenville 27, GR Christian 21 OT

It’s always easy to remember the recent games. This one, though I will remember for a long time for various reasons.

Not just because of the thrilling finish, or the playoff implications and momentum it provided, but because of the players on the field. Having been in the community for a number of years, this was the first group of kids I watched grow up from elementary school. I was able to coach some of them in baseball and others were the children of friends. It was a special season in 2010 and one of the best in school history.

Greenville entered the game 6-1 overall with a playoff spot already in hand. With Lowell on deck next, this game was a must-win if the Yellow Jackets wanted to host another playoff game.

Tied at 21 entering the fourth quarter neither team managed to score, sending the game into overtime.
The Yellow Jackets won the toss and went on defense first. Mind you the Eagles’ Andre Davis (about 250 pounds) had rushed for 134 yards in the game, but Christian decided to go to the air. After an incomplete pass on first down Greenville’s Zach Burris intercepted the second down pass. Black Field went crazy as the Yellow Jackets needed only a field goal to win the game.

Jake Knapp secured the win with a five-yard run on third down, giving the Yellow Jackets an 7-1 record. It also gave Greenville enough momentum and confidence to go into Lowell and beat the Red Arrows 35-21 for the first time since 1994. Those two wins allowed the Yellow Jackets to host two home playoff games for the first time in school history.

Oct. 29, 2010 — Greenville 46, Kenowa Hills 21

To be honest this game was never close. Hosting a playoff game for just the third time, the Yellow Jackets rushed for 342 yards in a 46-21 win over the Knights. It was the highest scoring playoff game in Greenville history.

Greenville led 46-0 before Kenowa found the endzone.

Sean O’Brien scored four touchdowns and the Yellow Jackets defense forced four turnovers in the route. The win improved the Yellow Jackets to 9-1 overall and set up a district final game with the heralded Muskgeon Big Reds.

As you can tell Black Field holds a lot of memories for me. Black Field is a special place and always will be for many people. The new stadium — yet to be named — will have the same impact on people and will begin to create its own memories in late August next year.

And of course that history will begin with one of the longest running rivalries in the state against the Belding Redskins.

Bruce Bentley is the sports editor for The Daily News.

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