By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Nearly 2,000 fans filled the Okemos High School soccer stands Saturday, Sept. 26, to watch two of Michigan’s top high school teams face off in one of mid-Michigan’s most heated rivalry games – and also to help those rivals support research and treatment of childhood cancer.
This season’s “Compete for a Cause” game raised a record $25,000, with additional donations still rolling in this week. For their work in bringing awareness and funding to a cause close to both programs, the Mason and Okemos boys varsity soccer teams have been named the inaugural Applebee’s MHSAA Teams of the Month.
This was the fourth Compete for a Cause game, an event created by the Mason team and coaching staff during the 2012 season. The first two games featured Mason versus Eaton Rapids, with Mason then partnering with Okemos in last season’s “Compete” game that drew 1,400 fans and raised $11,000. Both the Bulldogs and Chiefs programs have ties to childhood cancer, and this season’s proceeds will be presented to the Michigan State University Pediatric Oncology Clinic and St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
Okemos installed portable lights for this season’s game, and players for both teams wore special jerseys bearing names on the back to honor loved ones who have been impacted by the disease.
“It was already a huge game to start with,” said Okemos senior Josh Duren, whose younger sister Paige is a cancer survivor. “And then you add a couple names to the back of shirts, and a bigger cause than just a game, and it’s amazing.”
The Chiefs claimed the victory on the field, 2-0. Mason is ranked No. 5 in the Lower Peninsula Division 2 coaches poll and formerly held the top spot, while Okemos has been ranked as high as No. 15 in Division 1.
Each month during the 2015-16 school year, Applebee’s will recognize a Michigan high school team or teams not only for performances on the field of play, but also in the classroom and community.
PHOTO: Mason and Okemos players walk to midfield during a pregame ceremony before their "Compete for a Cause" game Sept. 26. (Photo by John Johnson.)