West Bloomfield High School was a flurry of activity Friday night, as hundreds packed into the parking lot to celebrate the second-annual "Family Fun Night." The events featured a dunk tank, bounce houses, face painting, as well as a chance to pay tribute to military, police and fire personnel who were on hand for a ceremony before the game.
"I'm thrilled with the turnout — the sense of community is shining through," said Julie Beaty, a parent of children in the district who helped to organize the event. "I'm just glad we could raise some acknowledgement of everything police, fire, and military do for the community. People here should have every opportunity to show them how they feel."
On the field, the Lakers weren't as thrilled with the result: a 24-16 loss to Troy Athens which was not as close as the score indicated.
The star: The Red Hawks took advantage of poor on-field conditions by running the ball successfully all game. Led by a stout offensive line and the steady play of full-time junior quarterback Jake Nelson, who scored one touchdown, the Lakers' defense were kept on their toes all night.
The turning point: With the game scoreless in the second quarter and the ball on the Lakers' one-yard line, Red Hawks head coach Josh Heppner called Nelson's number on a quarterback sneak, which was converted for a touchdown. Athens never really looked back, scoring 24 points before West Bloomfield could get on the scoreboard in the fourth.
The story: With emotions high and rain pouring throughout, Athens' seemed determined to leave town with their first win of the season. The young Red Hawks' offense took over one full quarter to get on the board and the defense wilted in the fourth quarter, but their lead proved insurmountable for West Bloomfield.
The quote: "I told these guys at the beginning of the game that everything happens for a reason. Those games were meant to test their character and see how hard they were willing to fight. We're a very young team and our seniors didn’t play a lot last year. They’re just now getting in their element and I think they'll be excited to play next week." — Athens head coach Josh Heppner.
What's next? West Bloomfield will try to right the ship on the road against an inconsistently-good Troy team, while Athens will host Stoney Creek, a team in the the midst of a three-game losing streak.
Bottom line: Troy Athens may be in rebuilding mode, but its tough early-season schedule — including blowout losses against Warren Mott, Lake Orion, and Clarkson — appears to have built character in Heppner's group. The Red Hawks may not make the playoffs, but their season should not a total loss.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how West Bloomfield responds to two close losses in consecutive weeks after last week's loss at Rochester, 20-13. Head coach Ron Bellamy's team have faced a similar schedule to Athens', and wins on the road against Troy and Stoney Creek would do the Lakers a world of good before homecoming Oct. 12.