TRAVERSE CITY — There’s more than football at stake when West and Central meet on the gridiron.
Tonight’s annual crosstown varsity football contest between the Trojans and Titans pits marching band against marching band, cheerleading squad against cheerleading squad and student section against student section.
It even turns friends into enemies.
“Some people know people from West and when they go to the game they turn on each other,” Central sophomore Cheyenne Mongar said. “It’s a big deal.”
Fierce competition and school spirit will be on display tonight when students from each school chant and jeer back and forth in an attempt to prove whose fans are loudest and proudest.
Members of both camps said they expect no less during arguably the biggest game of the year.
“If you don’t go to any games, you should still go to this one,” West sophomore Taylor Hill said.
Cafeterias at both schools buzzed with excitement Thursday.
Players from the freshman and junior varsity squads wore their jerseys ahead of Thursday’s undercard match-ups. Other students sported commemorative “Patriot Game” t-shirts — blue at Central and red at West — sold at each high school. Proceeds from the shirt sales are earmarked for the Grand Traverse Horses 4 Heroes program at Reigning Liberty Ranch.
West senior Brady Severt said his classmates will “red out” West’s student section tonight with their t-shirts.
“Kind of like a red sea,” senior Kelsey Boudjalais said.
Tonight’s game marks the earliest meeting between Traverse City’s public high schools in the 17-year history of the rivalry. The early date didn’t phase students, though.
Kristyn Korson, a junior at Central, said the excitement from tonight should propel the Trojans through the end of their season.
“It motivates us to get pumped up more for the rest of the year,” Central senior Kate Pence said.
Erica Williams, a sophomore at West, said the game’s date doesn’t matter.
“We’re still going to crush them,” Brittany Roberts, also a West sophomore, said.
The Titans are the team with something to prove this year after losing last year’s showdown 42-28.
“Last year there was no competition, really,” said Central junior Taran Lutes, a cornerback for the Trojan’s varsity squad.
But West students said their team is ready to prove last year was a fluke.
“Be ready to lose,” West sophomore Elle Van Antwerp said to her counterparts at Central.