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Mona Shores Sailors sailing on the Lake Express for season football opener after S.S. Badger halted

The S.S. Badger suspended service for the rest of the season and the Mona Shores football team was left scrambling to find a way to get to their first game.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Mona Shores head football coach Matt Koziak has fond memories from around this time last year, when his team was able to host a pretty special event.

"Last year, we played a team, Manitowoc Lincoln, a school in Wisconsin, which is really just west of Ludington. And they took the S.S. Badger over last year, took it into Ludington drove down and played a game. They stayed a couple of days with us. And now it's our turn," Koziak said.

The Sailors are set to travel to Manitowoc for a game Friday, August 25. But over the summer, their plans hit a snag when damage to the S.S. Badger's ramp suspended service for the rest of the season.

"We were scrambling with that. But the Lake Express stepped up and were just incredible. It's helping us out because it is a little bit more expensive than the Badger and they kind of met us halfway," Koziak said.

Leaders from the Lake Express say they have been getting a lot of messages from people wanting to make the trip across Lake Michigan since the news about the Badger first hit. They say they're happy to help, especially in a case like this.

"I think it brings back a little bit of the excitement I had participating in high school sports - a little bit of the travel being the highlight of the trip, and we're looking forward to hopefully giving a memorable trip to all those student athletes and to all the coaches as well," said Aaron Schultz, who serves as the senior vice president at the Lake Express.

"This will be a little different than the normal bus trip that you'd normally expect, so I'm looking forward to that, absolutely."

Mona Shores will depart Muskegon at 10:15 a.m. on Thursday, August 24. Around two and a half hours later, the Lake Express will dock in Milwaukee, and the Sailors will drive the rest of the way to Manitowoc.

In what's been described as a "college football bowl game" type experience, Mona Shores will have team dinner with the players from Manitowoc Lincoln on Thursday night before taking them on the very next day.

"I'm very excited because you don't get many like trips together. We have a seven-on-seven down in Ohio, and veer camp where we go we stay a couple nights but that's really about it," said senior lineman Luke Emmons.

"It's awesome to have another opportunity to just one last time spend a week in a hotel with my best friends in the whole world and just hang out."

Senior slotback and defensive back Hayden Terpstra is looking forward to the experience as well.

"How many high school players can say that they traveled across the state or even across the lake to play a football game? It's just honestly an awesome experience, especially just hanging out with all my friends. It will be super cool," he said.

Coach Koziak said he had a conversation with a local historian who told him that Michigan and Wisconsin teams used to take a ferry across Lake Michigan all the time to play each other in the 1920s. It's not common anymore, but Koziak hopes more schools get opportunities like this.

"It's a cool thing to break bread with them. It's a lot bigger than a football game on a Friday night," he said.

"It kind of puts things into perspective. We have kids from Michigan eating dinner with kids from Wisconsin the night before. I think that's pretty special in itself."

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