Football semifinals roll into Brighton, Howell

The 2015 high school football season ended a couple of weeks ago in Livingston County.

But, on Saturday, football comes back for a pair of encores.

Both Brighton and Howell high schools will be playing host to MHSAA state semifinals at their respective facilities.

Brighton will have an encore within an encore, of sorts, when Grand Ledge (12-0)  takes on Romeo (11-1) in a Division 1 semifinal.

At Howell, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (10-1) will meet East Grand Rapids (9-3) in a Division 3 semifinal. Both games kickoff at 1 p.m.

The winners of both games will go on to next week’s championship games in their respective divisions at Ford Field in Detroit.

For the athletic directors, John Thompson at Brighton and Dan Hutcheson at Howell, the games are both an honor and an opportunity.

“Our motivation is, first, showcasing Howell and our community and our facilities,” Hutcheson said. “We have a nice setup and a lot to offer. The other is service. We’re a member of the MHSAA, we’re in a desirable location and they appreciated the fact they can county on us to host a high-level game without worries.”

“There are some bragging rights when you host these events,” Thompson said. “We hosted the soccer finals a couple of weeks ago and we’ll have this game before the finals. I think it makes the community feel good and gives our school and students a little pride in knowing we have facilities that can accommodate events like this on the state level.”

Both schools will have their football squads out there in force, too, giving them a look at what it’s like to play at the penultimate level in the high school playoffs.

“We want them to see that up close and personal,” Hutcheson said.

An added benefit is, the schools hope, a one-day jolt to the local economy. Hutcheson, who has been running semifinals at Howell in all but one year since he got the job, sends packets to the schools playing in the days before the game, highlighting things to do, places to shop and where to eat in the area.

“It showcases our community and brings more people into our downtown,” Thompson said. “They’ll be eating in our  restaurants, shopping, in some cases staying overnight, and that’s where a good bit of the value lies.”

Last year, Brighton ended up playing host to two finals due to heavy wet snow that made one field unplayable at another site.

On Saturday, it is expected to start snowing in the morning and last a good portion of the day.

Most years, the semifinals have been contested on cold but dry days.

“It’s some uncharted territory for us,” Hutcheson said. “But it will be the same for everyone. We’ll figure it out as it goes.”

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