LAKE ODESSA, Mich. (WOOD) — When the Vikings of Lakewood High School in Lake Odessa and the Phoenix of Little Village Lawndale of Chicago met on the football field Friday, it was more than a game.
It was a learning experience. The task of simply getting to school each morning showed the different worlds these two teams come from.
For Little Village Lawndale junior wide receiver and linebacker Marvin Bryant, the commute to school can be treacherous.
“The school I go to, the neighborhoods are bad. It’s kind of rough sometimes. You get into fights and arguments with other people,” Bryant said.
For Lakewood receiver and defensive back Reese Caudy, it’s anything but treacherous.
“I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve really enjoyed being here. It’s a great town,” he said.
The two teams from vastly different backgrounds used football to get to know a little bit about where the other is coming from.
When Lakewood needed a team to fill the first game of the schedule, they put the word out. Little Village Lawndale answered, and the two teams — one rural, one urban — met for the first time on Friday.
Little Village’s campus is located on the south side of Chicago. It’s part of an area where gun violence resulted in 74 people being shot during the first weekend in August. Twelve people died because of that violence.
The lesson in Lake Odessa was meant to go well beyond that fact one place is violent and one place is safer. Coaches say about 95 percent of the athletes playing for Little Village Lawndale have never left Chicago. That was a big part of Friday’s experience.
“I see a lot of lakes, a lot of fields, a lot of boats. Everything is new to me,” Bryant said,
If you’re a kid from Lake Odessa, chances are a trip to Chicago kept you downtown where the tourists go.
“The kids from Little Village are going to learn something that they have never experienced before on their life, that’s education,” Lakewood Athletic Director Mike Quinn said. “Our guys are going to learn something about these guys. That’s going to be education.”
They hope the players will have a better understanding of how things work outside of their own corners of the world.
“Making new friends with new people. It really rounds you as a person, that’s how I see it,” Caudy said.
At the end of the game, players are worried about more than numbers on the scoreboard.
“It would be great for us to win,” Bryant said. “But even if we don’t win, it’s just been fun coming out here, enjoying football.”
Nothing is scheduled yet, but Quinn said Lakewood will try to return the favor and travel to Chicago in future seasons.