Skip to main content

O'HARA: Lions a part of Football Week in Michigan

The Detroit Lions are center stage in a peak period of the football season as they make a playoff run with a finishing schedule that includes a Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field, but the spotlight also shines brightly on the best of Michigan's high school and college teams.

It is a broad spectrum of football, from the grass roots level of youngsters with big dreams reaching for the stars to the star players who applied dedication to their talent to rise through the ranks to reach the National Football League.

It makes for a fitting backdrop for the launch of "Football Week In Michigan," a planned annual event developed and produced by FOX Sports Detroit.

View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Nov. 16, 2017

For the 2017 debut, at least a dozen football games, featuring the Lions, Michigan, Michigan State and the state's top high school teams, will be televised on the FOX network platforms in an eight-day period, from Saturday, Nov. 18 through Nov. 25.

Football is America's favorite reality sports show for the way it re-invents its plots and leading characters from week to week while never leaving behind its basic grass-roots appeal.

It is the ultimate team sport with a compelling drama and long, welcoming reach that draws people into its emotional huddle with a firm grip that creates lasting rivalries without borders and stirs traditions and passions limited only by the depth of imagination by its fans and followers.

At the very top of football's competitive chain, home-grown defensive lineman Anthony Zettel of Ogenaw Heights High School in West Branch and Pro Bowl quarterback Matthew Stafford from the high school passion pit of Texas, can attest to how football in Michigan stirs the emotions.

"I think it's good," said Stafford, who led his Texas high school team to a state championship before going to Georgia to compete in the football-mad SEC. "It's probably different. Being from Texas, playing high school football there, it's its own animal.

"You look at it from a collegiate standpoint — you're either Go Green or Go Blue, but there are a bunch of schools – Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, all those schools are really talented.

"People are fired up about football around the state, and we have a nice following. Fans across the country get a chance to see our team play on Thanksgiving who don't on a regular basis."

For Zettel, his path to the NFL took him to a college career at Penn State and back home to play for the Lions as a sixth-round draft pick in 2016. His high school roots at West Branch, some 170 miles north of Detroit, shaped him as the tenacious player he's been for the Lions.

"We were in the snow belt," he said. "It was gritty football. We didn't have the most talent, but we had a lot of gritty kids, tough dudes. It kinds of shapes the person you are ... growing up with rivalries and stuff like that.

"It's a dream come true. I grew up a Lions fan. I'm excited to be on the team now. I'm excited where we're going. We've got a good thing going on here. Playing in that Thanksgiving Game last year was so exciting.

"It's a very exciting time to be living in Michigan, especially to be playing at home."

It is a game for all seasons and all levels, and nowhere is that demonstrated more starkly at this time of year than in the State of Michigan.

The calendar tells us the holiday season is approaching at warp speed, and our sports instincts say that the crisp cold stabs of morning air and leaves crunching underfoot signal the arrival of the meteorological phenomenon known as "football weather."

With the colleges and high schools reaching the end of their seasons and the Lions ramping up another playoff run, it's the ideal time for the launch of "Football Week in Michigan."

"When we realized the stars had aligned for this collection of games, we started looking for some ideas for how we could combine this with the high school championships and develop something unique and powerful," said Greg Hammaren, senior vice president and general manager of FOX Sports Detroit.

"When you stop to think about all these big games in the greatest sports town in America, that's a pretty strong combination. This collection of games happening in a short amount of time will remain.

"This is the first of what will be an annual promotion for us."

The FOX TV schedule as follows:

The Lions play at Chicago on Sunday with the Thanksgiving Day game against the Vikings on Thursday at Ford Field.

Michigan State-Maryland is Saturday, with the Michigan-Ohio State game Nov. 25.

Michigan high school championship games in eight divisions will be played over a two-day period, Nov. 24-25 at Ford Field.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content