BRIGHTON — Until today, only a very few Livingston County football players had run through the tunnel at Michigan Stadium.
That number will grow substantially today, when the Bulldogs take on Detroit East English at Michigan Stadium in the first game of “The Battle of The Big House.”
“It’s awesome,” said Brighton junior Luke Helwing. “Not a lot of kids have the opportunity to do this.”
The game, which kicks off at 4 p.m. will be broadcast on The Livingston Post at 3:50 p.m.
The Bulldogs, 9-2 last season, take on an East English Bulldogs team that has made the playoffs in each of its four years of existence, including a 9-3 mark last season.
How good were they? All three losses were to teams that made state finals, two to Detroit King and the third to Cass Tech.
Naturally, that’s history, as ancient as the days when Brighton had an ex-Bulldog in a Michigan uniform for more than a decade.
But, after some up and down campaigns, Brighton had its best season in a half-decade in 2015 in coach Brian Lemons’ first year, and the Bulldogs would like nothing better than be a perennial playoff team again.
“We always want to reach a standard of success year-in and year-out,” Lemons said. “We put a lot of accountability on the kids in the off season so we can continue to get better and be successful.”
Lemons also has a healthy respect for the opposing Bulldogs.
“They’re pretty big up front,” he said. “They have some pretty skilled players. They play some tough competiton, and that’s what right now is the toughest thing to mimic in our own practices.”
Brighton, meanwhile, will be unveiling an offense that figures to be a lot different from last year, when the running game, in the form of Joey Clifford, set up the pass.
This year, Cameron Tullar will be handing off to several backs while the Bulldogs look to learn about themselves as much as their opponents, all of it on the fly.
Not to mention the experience of playing in a stadium where players on both teams have watched football on TV.
“I’ve gone to the Big House as a kid, watching Michigan play, and it’s always been the atmosphere has just been crazy, and it’s so big,” Brighton tackle Andrew Meyer said. “It’s always been a dream to go there. I think it will be great for our team to go there.”
But, Helwing said, the game will be the focus.
“The big stage,” Helwing said. “The younger kids will have to step up and take it all in at the same time, while playing their best.”
Brighton will be the home team, but Lemons doesn’t worry about losing a home team compared to playing at one of college football’s iconic stadiums.
“I think everyone’s going to be excited to be playing at The Big House, so I don’t think it’s a matter of home field or not,” he said. “I’m hoping the crowd is large and everyone is enjoying the time they have there. It’s a pretty special moment for players, families, everyone involved.”