Last Modified: Friday, September 13, 2013 10:15 PM
GRAND LAKE — There is something eternal about Friday nights during high school football season. Maybe it’s the pep rallies for home games. Maybe it’s the chatter of former players in the stands, reliving the glory days. Somehow, everything under the stadium lights seems familiar. For the first time in 53 years, Grand Lake High School spent Friday night looking like any other high school in the state.
The Hornets were playing Gueydan in the team’s first home game in more than five decades. With the local excitement for the game, the bleachers weren’t enough to accommodate the team’s first home crowd of the season. To make due, fans created makeshift rows out of lawn chairs against the fence lining the track. Still, the bleachers and lawn chairs weren’t the loudest sections in the new stadium; that honor belonged to a tent closer to the entrance.
In a effort to mark just how significant the home game would be for the Grand Lake program, the school’s faculty reached out to some of the players to last play for the school before the football program ended. The tent was the area designated for what the former players thought of as a “football family reunion.”
Stanley Thomas once played halfback for Grand Lake. He said he heard about the gathering through a letter the school sent out to the players, something he was glad to receive.
“It really is a nice surprise,” Thomas said. “You have to remember, everybody knew everybody here when we went to school together. It’s good to see all of them like this.”
With a handful of players in attendance, most of them found it easy to fall back into their old high school behavior.
“Seeing everybody really makes me think of a lot of things,” Thomas said. “Mainly, it makes me think of how old everyone has gotten. Well, everyone except me of course.”
The former Hornets spent time before the game trading stories about everything. They laughed about how a stormy game ended early because the team started chasing a few ducks that wandered onto the field. Then there was the game where one of the team’s defensive lineman had 28 tackles against a future NFL player. There was also the time toward the end of the program’s run where, in an act of desperation, the players dressed the water boy in a uniform just so the team would have enough players for a game. The stories were endless.
Gerald Richard was a quarterback for Grand Lake in the past. He said that with the way the crowd was filling the bleachers before the game, it reminded him of the games he played in high school.
“We used to play in front of a packed house. The stands would be filled up,” Richard said. “I remember people would park their cars off on the side and sit on them so they could watch. I can’t believe it took this long to get a field here, but it’s good to see all of this. It really is.”
Bill Wynn played a little bit of everything for Grand Lake — from running back to safety to linebacker. He said playing multiple positions was something the whole team did. Wynn’s teams were small and the wins were hard to come by, but it doesn’t make him miss it any less.
“The new field is just beautiful. I’m telling you, it makes me wish I could go to high school again,” Wynn said. “The Bible says old men dream dreams. Every now and then, I dream about winning a ball game.”
Gene Stutes was a fullback and part-time quarterback for Grand Lake. In fact, he was the quarterback during the game the team dressed out the water boy. He said getting to watch a home game was about more than just watching some local football.
“All of this is pretty neat. With the brand-new field and the bleachers, it’s great to see,” Stutes said. “It makes you feel like Grand Lake is stepping up. It makes you feel like something important is happening out here.”
After the players spent nearly an hour trading football stories, jokes about who was looking older and just how good a player the next man was, they were ushered onto the track. The school used some of the time before kickoff to recognize the last class of players to play for Grand Lake — the graduating classes of 1960 and 1961. In the end, the former players walked off the field and back into the stands to watch the game, just like any night in any other stadium.