PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Portage Northern will host its first home game Friday night in an over 50-year-old rivalry with Portage Central.
Two weeks ago, Portage Northern unveiled the brand-new Huskie Stadium in a week one win against Kalamazoo Loy Norrix. This week, Huskie Stadium will host its first game between the crosstown rivals.
“We’re thrilled, I mean this has been 53 years in the making,” said Portage Northern Principal Jim French.
For decades, Portage Northern’s football players had to board a bus to get to their “home” games at other schools. Now, they are getting used to having a home field advantage.
“It’s an amazing feeling, it feels like we finally have a home,” said Portage Northern junior Craig Lapentina. “We don’t have to get on a bus and drive 10 minutes to go to a home game. We get our own stands, our own student section. Everyone’s here to support us, not the other side of the town.”
Over the course of the rivalry, Portage Central and Portage Northern have rotated who plays as the home team, but Northern has always felt like the road team.
“There was nothing worse than having to get on a bus to go to a home game,” said 1993 Portage Northern graduate Cory Green. “To come here, have a community tailgate and feel a sense of excitement — we’re very excited to be here.”
Although it took over 50 years to arrive, Huskie Stadium is still a point of pride for the community in Portage.
“This has been great, it’s been a rallying cry for our community,” Portage Northern Athletic Director Chris Riker said. “It’s a nice thing, not only for us, but we’re getting great facilities for all of Portage and a great opportunity for kids and our community.”
Ironically, the first true “road game” of the rivalry for Portage Central is coming at the site it will play its home games at this year while a new stadium is being constructed on the former sit of McCamley Field.
“It’s been our only field to serve the district for well over 50, 60 years now,” said Portage Public School Superintendent Mark Bielang. “It’s time for a facelift.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday night. Full coverage of the game can be found on woodtv.com and on 24 Hour News 8 at 11 p.m. during Football Frenzy.