Cherry Capital Tradition: West, Central Prep for Patriot Game

TRAVERSE CITY – A game that divides the Cherry Capital is set to take center stage once again at Thirlby Field on Friday.

The annual Patriot Game between Traverse City Central and Traverse City West pits rivals that are rolling in the infancy of the 2017 season.

“It’s who wants it more. Who has the guts and the toughness to make those tough plays,” West coach Tim Wooer said. “We talk about football intelligence, and being able to execute on a big stage. It’s going to be loud, there’s going to be 10 to 12,000 people.”

“The magnitude of this game, we have to up everything,” added Central coach Eric Schugars. “We have to play better, execute better, we have to be stronger, more physical on defense because this is going to be a tough game for us.”

One of the biggest rivalries in northern Michigan, the two sides have met 21 times, with West owning a 12-9 record. Central has won four straight in the series, though, including both meetings a year ago by a combined three points.

“Don’t break down. Just go strong, you know you’re prepared, and just do it,” Central senior Sam Sherwin said. “I think we’re ready for it, and they’re ready for it, so it’s going to be a fun game.”

With the other members of the Big North Conference still trying to gain their footing in the early stages of the season, the winner of Friday’s Patriot Game looks to be the conference favorite.

“We’re focusing on being disciplined, and just knowing our rules, and just go out there and play some football,” West senior Cole Barbee said.

Proceeds from this year’s game will benefit the organization 22-2-None. Named in honor of the average number of veterans who commit suicide each day in the U.S., 22-2-None is a new organization that partners with a variety of resources aimed at assisting veterans transitioning out of the military and reducing the number of suicides and attempted suicides.

At the end of the day, both sides say there’s much more to this event than the game played on the field.

“It’s an opportunity for us to have gratitude, you know, to have gratitude to the veterans, to the first responders,” Schugars said. “It’s not often our players actually get the chance to say thank you, and shake their hands. It’s emotional, it’s a good feeling.”

“It means a lot to me playing for all the veterans who’ve served before us, especially for a guy who’s thinking about going into the armed forces,” added West senior Brent Walters.

Kickoff Friday is set for 7 p.m.

Categories: Football