(Photo illustration by Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 04, 2013 10:47 PM
While most of the country spends its summers in eager anticipation of the start of Saturdays full of college football or Sundays spent watching NFL, many in this small pocket of states in the south spend their summer months looking forward to Friday night high school football.
At jamborees, fans pack into stadiums to watch freshman and JV squads and coaches experimenting with their varsity teams before the official season even begins. The games don’t count for anything, but don’t tell that to the droves of parents, family friends, or interested locals in the stands. They’re just trying to get a taste of the Friday night action before the main course begins.
For some involved, Friday nights are as serious as it gets.
Barbe coach Mike Cutrera called Friday night football his livelihood, and said there’s nothing like it.
That unexplainable passion that comes with Friday nights spent under the lights even carries on once many people’s high school football playing days are in the rearview. Oakdale coach Randall Gordon described his devastation after walking away from his football playing career and almost sounded like he lost a good friend when his Friday nights weren’t occupied with a commitment to the gridiron.
“I love it,” he said. “That’s why I became a coach. When I was done with football, it was hard to get away from it, so I had to find my way back in. That’s why I decided to be a coach.”
Games aren’t just about the action on the field, though. The students in the stands, cheerleaders on the sidelines, bands, dancers, flag waivers and baton twirlers, parents, grandparents and alumni, booster clubs and everything that comes with a game serve as a spectacle for all parties involved in the occasion.
It’s a community event for Gordon and the fans who attend the games against neighboring teams.
“Playing Kinder and Oberlin, that’s just something we get excited about,” Gordon said. “You see all the people around here, they all work together, so they get to talk about it.”
The excitement for each week’s game builds as the week nears its end and by Friday, there is often a nearly tangible buzz in the halls of local high schools.
“The kids in the school get fired up for it and the football players just feed off of that because they’re all talking about,” said Barbe head coach Mike Cutrera.
No more summer weight training or conditioning for the players, no more jamborees or scrimmages, it’s the real deal every Friday night from now until the state champions claim their title in December.
“It’s time,” Cutrera said. “It feels like we’ve been practicing forever and not being able to play a game. We’ve reached the point where it’s time to start keeping score for real. It’s just an exciting time of the year.”
This season begins tonight, with a pair of local games.
Westlake travels to DeRidder while LaGrange heads to Crowley for a battle with Notre Dame.
Whether it be Friday or Thursday, it is the time of year that brings communities together.