Greenville to host MHSAA 8-player football state final

By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 10:18 am on Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A look at Legacy Field in Greenville prior to the first football game on Aug. 24. Legacy Field will host the MHSAA 8-player state final on Friday night.

GREENVILLE — Legacy Field, the sparkling new football stadium on the campus of Greenville High School, hosted its first football game on Aug. 24 between the Yellow Jackets and Belding Redskins.

In its first season of use, Legacy Field hosted just four varsity football games during the regular season. The Yellow Jackets did not qualify for the postseason, but Legacy Field will host one more game this year.

Greenville was selected to host the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s (MHSAA) 8-player state final on Friday night at 7 p.m.

“We are very excited. We went from potentially hosting a semifinal game (11-player) to hosting a final,” Greenville athletic director Brian Zdanwoski said. “There is quite a bit more that goes into hosting a final. It’s a labor of love getting it all set up, but it’s fun.”

Now in its second season as an MHSAA endorsed sport — Carsonville-Port Sanilac won in 2011 — the Bellaire Eagles (9-3) will face the Deckerville Eagles (11-1) for the 2012 title.

The game will be televised live on Fox Sports Plus and will be called by Matt Shepard and Rob Rubick.

Zdanowski said a lot is involved getting the stadium ready for a live television broadcast.

“It takes a lot to get them set up with the needs they have,” Zdanowski said. “They need a lot of space and are kind of taking over the whole facility to some degree. They have a lot of people working.”

While 8-player football is a new sport to the MHSAA, it has been around for a long time. Zdanowski used to officiate games in the upper peninsula.

“When I first went north to teach, 22 years ago now, I used to officiate some of those games,” Zdanowski said. “Indian River, Boyne Falls used to have 8-player. It’s a wide open game, but the field is 13 yards thinner (40 yards).”

The game is played on a regular length football field, but is not the usual 53 yards wide and is 40 yards wide.

Greenville was a finalist to host an 11-player semifinal game this weekend, as well, but because of location and certain teams qualifying, they were not selected to host a semifinal game on Saturday.

“They (MHSAA) have six sites reserved in West Michigan. The last few years they needed all of those sites,” Zdanowski said. “The teams that won this year were larger schools and the way the map worked out we were not in the middle of any matchups.”

One potential matchup could have been Comstock Park and Grand Rapids South Christian in Division 4. Too many people are expected to attend to meet Legacy Field’s seating capacity.

Another possibility was if Clare would have beaten Menominee on Saturday. The Division 5 semifinal would have been Clare against Grand Rapids West Catholic. More that likely, Greenville would have hosted that game.

Greenville would have missed out on the 8-player final if one team from the upper peninsula would have made it to the finals. That did not happen when Bellaire defeated Rapid River 20-16 on Saturday.

Deckerville defeated Portland St. Patrick in the other semifinal in double overtime 36-30.

Greenville is no stranger to hosting MHSAA events and hosting future football events will remain a possibility and something Zdanowski will shoot for.

“I don’t see why not,” Zdanowski said. “It’s good for our community. The Chamber of Commerce is involved promoting the community. It’s going to be fun.”

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