Nine years ago I arrived in Greenville for my interview at the Administration Building for the head football coaching job. I arrived early to scout out the town, school facilities and football field. I looked at Yellow Jacket Stadium but only later did I discover that football wasn’t played there. The games were played at Black Field.
“Just turn into the Handy Market on 91”… really? Behind a convenience store? So I went to take my first look at historic Black Field.
I fell in love from the view at the top of the hill. From that day on I told everyone “Just turn into the Handy Market,” then sat back to watch their reaction. My wife and both of my then-high school age sons always insisted on going the back way home, just to pass by Black Field. There has always been something special, something drawing you in, something magical.
I have always loved history and after my first year I spent time researching the history of Greenville football. I compiled lists of teams, coaches, players and game records. I especially concentrated on the longtime rivalry with Belding — 113 years and counting. This made me think of the hundreds of games played at Black Field.
Think of the thousands of players who had the opportunity to play there. How many times has the place been packed for a Greenville-Belding game? The field witnes
sed the undefeated teams of 1945 (unscored upon), 1947 and Joe Hattenbach’s 1983 team. The field saw Warren Kent’s 2000 team (the first playff qualifier ever). It witnessed the 2005 team that won the first playoff game ever at Black Field. Think of all of the memories made over those 75 plus years.
I personally have had many great memories at Black Field — four games against Belding, the first playoff victory against Traverse City Central, the overtime victory last year against Grand Rapids Christian and last year’s playoff victory against Kenowa Hills, just to name a few.
My favorite memories are not of games though, but of the players. I will never forget them walking down the stairs before each game. I will never forget them running up the hillside after touchdowns. I will never forget them under the scoreboard taking pictures after big games. I will never forget them singing “Lean on Me” with arms around each other’s shoulders. I will never forget each seniors’ last game at Black Field… How hard it was to leave the field for the final time.
Now we will have a new stadium. I like to think of it as a new addition to the family. You know you will love it as your very own once it is here. But it doesn’t mean that we won’t always love Black Field. Like a favorite grandparent, if you take the time to listen, they always have the best stories to tell …
David Moore is Greenville’s varsity head football coach.