MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Walking through the tunnels of Muskegon High School’s Hackley Stadium, Dave Taylor could hardly believe how good the renovated field looked.
He remembers the days when his players practiced in the so-called “sand burr stadium.” As the Big Reds’ head coach from 1983 to 2000, he saw years of wear.
“You don’t know how bad Hackley was falling apart. The stands, the practice field, the works,” Taylor said. “They just wouldn’t put any money into this and then somebody got a bug and said we’re going to do this and they followed through. And they did a great job.”
The field pops off the turf. The signature Muskegon “M” is bold on the 50-yard line, centered between the two endzones painted crimson and announcing “Big Reds.”
Taylor agrees with a former player, Cameron Martinez, that this is something the community, school and players have wanted for a long time. Martinez is the former quarterback at Muskegon and was Mr. Football Michigan in 2019. He now plays at Ohio State, where he’s taking reps on defense.
“I actually was back home for a week so I was able to see the turf and I was able to run around, I did some drills and stuff like that. It made me wish that I had it last year,” Martinez said. “It’s definitely a good upgrade and I think it’s well-deserved. I think they’ve been wanting it for a while and I’m glad they were able to get it.”
Muskegon will open the new era at Hackley against a port city rival, Mona Shores. A team they’ve beat four years in a row.
“I think it’s going to be pretty close. Two really good teams, they’re really well-coached,” Martinez said. “Of course, I got to go with my Big Reds. I know we’re going to pull it out and get the W and keep the streak going.”
Taylor said that in a normal year, fans would be spilling out of Hackley on a Friday night. He says on his big nights, they’d fill it with 5,500 people. But because of the pandemic and new MHSAA guidelines, only a select few will get to see the new look for the Big Reds in person.
The rest, like Taylor and Martinez, will watch from home and enjoy the majesty of Hackley Stadium.
“It’s Big Red football. All the coaches before me called it that, I called it that,” Taylor said with the field behind him. “You’re not playing for anybody; you’re playing for the Big Reds. It’s a different kind of football.”