GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Public Schools kicks off the football season Thursday night with Ottawa Hills High School taking on Union High School at Houseman Field.
Both teams are hungry for a win since most of their outcomes over the last four years have resulted in losses.
Union High School’s football team hasn’t won a game since 2015. Ottawa Hills High School football team’s only win last year was against Union. Before that, Ottawa Hills hadn’t celebrated a victory since 2015.
Whether the win column shows it or not, both teams are set to prove they’re winning on and off the field. Despite the losses, both teams continue to play.
A player on the Union High School football team, Caleb Smith, told News 8 there are several reasons why their record is what it is, one of the reasons being low attendance at practice. But for some members of the team, not showing up to practice isn’t really a choice.
“A lot of the kids will take the bus or they have to go to work to help their parents pay their bills or watch their little brother or sister,” Smith said. “A lot of them are just trying to find a way to practice and they don’t have a way because they don’t have money for a bus pass, and they don’t have transportation.”
The problems the Ottawa Hills team face are the same game but from a different playbook.
A player on the Ottawa Hills football team, Kamarion Craig, attributes the losses to the need for more discipline, mental strength and focus, something Ottawa Hills football head coach Christian Verley has been working on.
“I think about it like, when we look at everything, we do you have a choice in life,” Verley said. “You can either be a victim or take it as what we say is climbing the mountain.”
Verley said he has been working to help improve the team’s character.
“When I took over it was a cleanup,” Verley said. “We had to work on grades, work on character development, we had to work on kids being stewards of the community.”
Both schools’ football teams have been working on bettering themselves on and off the field.
Verley told News 8 he hopes to see a big crowd at Thursday’s game to show the community what they’ve been working on.
Ottawa Hills plays Union on Thursday 6 p.m. at the Julius Houseman Field at the corner of Fountain and Diamond streets. Admission is free.