Guardian Game to feature tribute to the military
Vikings to host rivalry contest for first time as Grayling battles Kalkaska for Guardian Trophy
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
This year’s Guardian Game – a varsity football contest between Grayling High School and Kalkaska High School that includes a special rivalry trophy and tributes to past and present members of the United States military – will be held at Viking Stadium on Friday, October 4.
The 2019 Guardian Game will mark the third time Grayling has battled Kalkaska for the Guardian Trophy. The Vikings have won both previous games. In 2017, Grayling defeated Kalkaska 50-33 to earn its sixth win of the season and secure a playoff berth. Last year, the Vikings won 47-6 vs. the Blazers. Kalkaska High School hosted the Guardian Game in both 2017 and 2018, so this year’s event will mark the first time Grayling High School has hosted it.
For years, Grayling High School’s football program has offered tributes to the country’s armed forces, including military appreciation nights with players wearing camouflage uniforms on the field. The Guardian Game, with its traveling trophy that pays tribute to the military by featuring a bust of a soldier, takes it to another level.
“This game is a chance to offer a tribute to our military and hopefully we can provide them with a great night of football,” said Eric Tunney, Grayling High School’s varsity football coach. “Many of our former players have chosen the military as a post secondary option and it is great to see the transformations they make. None of us would be here without our military nor would we be able to have the opportunities, including playing football, without the freedom we have. I hope to have our kids understand that there is far more to life than touchdowns and tackling and that these servicemen and women are the reason why we have so many opportunities. We owe a lot to them and this game is just a small way for us to say thank you.”
Camp Grayling has been an ally for the football program for many years by hosting camps and special training sessions.
“We have done a lot and hope to continue to do a lot with the National Guard,” Coach Tunney said. “Having them right here in our back yard is a huge asset and anytime we hope to coordinate an activity with them they have stepped up and gone above and beyond. They have been a part of our BAHUNA Run and hosted the entire event this past summer.”
Camp Grayling officials said they appreciate the recognition from the Guardian Game and the bond with the football program.
“This is our third year supporting this awesome event that recognizes our active duty and veteran service men and women. As an alumni of Grayling High School, and a veteran myself, I am very proud of being from the northern Michigan area, and I thank both schools for hosting this wonderful event. Makes me truly proud and blessed that I get to put on the uniform every day,” said SFC Jeremie A. Mead, Community Relations Specialist for Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center.
Event organizers are hoping members of the armed forces – past and present – will come to the stadium for an on-field ceremony and to enjoy the game with the fans.
“This year Grayling is hosting for the first time and we want to bring out as many active and former military members as possible. We will be letting any active and/or former military member into the game for free to hopefully encourage them to attend. All military members in attendance will be asked to come down to the field before the national anthem so we can thank them for their service to our country,” said Grayling High School Athletic Director Nate Maury.
“We are putting the word out here at Camp (Grayling) to all of the soldiers to come to the game in uniform to cheer on their team. It is a drill weekend, so we are hoping for a good turnout,” Mead said.
The 2019 Guardian Game will feature a special coin toss prior to kickoff, event organizers said.
“Lieutenant Colonel Brian Burrell, who is the Deputy Garrison Commander for Camp Grayling, will be present to conduct the coin toss at the beginning of the game. The coin used will be the Camp Grayling Maneuver Training Center’s Coin of Excellence and will be presented along with the Minute Man trophy to the winning team,” Mead said. “Our local Grayling VFW will be presenting the colors for our national anthem as they do for every home game.”
According to the agenda for the 2019 Guardian Game, the special coin toss is slated for 6:35 p.m. After the coin toss, while the Grayling High School Marching Band performs, “veterans and active military members can start to make their way down to the field.” At 6:50 p.m. there is a scheduled announcement to honor current and former members of the military. The national anthem is slated for 6:55 p.m.
After the anthem, according to the agenda, “both teams shake hands with the vets. After handshake, vets representing Grayling will go to Grayling’s sideline to form a tunnel. Vets representing Kalkaska will go to Kalkaska’s sideline to do the same.”
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
For Grayling High School, the 2019 Guardian Game will also feature homecoming festivities.
“With it being homecoming as well, the marching band will perform before the game and then we will have the homecoming ceremony at halftime,” Maury said.
In 2020, Grayling High School’s football league – the Northern Michigan Football Conference – will feature a few changes in the Legends Division. Currently, Grayling’s division features Benzie Central, Boyne City, Cheboygan, Grayling, Kalkaska, Kingsley, and Traverse City St. Francis. Next year, Kalkaska and Boyne City will be moving to the Northern Michigan Football Conference’s Legacy Division, so Kalkaska will no longer be a conference opponent for the Vikings, but Maury said the school plans to keep Kalkaska on the schedule as a nonconference opponent to keep the Guardian Game going.
“We still plan to play Kalkaska as a nonconference opponent due to how close we are to each other and the rivalry we have between our two schools,” Maury said.