Friday night is special. School spirit is in the air. The lights go on at the stadium and their glow is seen across the community. Crowds pack large municipal stadiums and small high school fields. The colors are vivid, the pageantry is on full display, and the energy is palpable. Hope springs eternal as the season starts anew.
I have a confession. I miss Friday nights. I played my last high school football game in Apalachicola 26 years ago, but I still miss being on the field under those lights. I don’t miss Monday through Thursday though. I don’t miss two-a-day practices before school started in hot and humid August weather, blocking and tackling drills, and wind sprints when you were exhausted. Nope, I don’t miss that a bit. But I do miss Friday night.
Friday night is special. School spirit is in the air. The lights go on at the stadium and their glow is seen across the community. Crowds pack large municipal stadiums and small high school fields. The colors are vivid, the pageantry is on full display, and the energy is palpable. Hope springs eternal as the season starts anew. Coaches make final preparations and offer pre-game speeches. Cheerleaders hoist the banner for the team. The marching band plays the fight song. There is smoke in the air from the burgers cooking on the grill. Rivalries are renewed and local legends are born. It’s time for high school football.
For weeks, coaches and players have been going through the drills in this oppressive Northwest Florida heat, learning plays, running sprints, scouting opponents and getting ready for this football season. These coaches and players need our support and encouragement and I would encourage you to go out and watch our local teams compete on the gridiron. High school football is one of the best deals in town. For just a few bucks, you can watch a great game, eat a burger, and see some of the best athletes in our area compete.
Looking back, our Wewahitchka Gators didn’t have much success during my time in high school. Coach Wayne Flowers noted that we were “small, but slow.” But, we had a ton of fun and learned a great deal about life, particularly how to persevere, how to face adversity, and to not quit. When my teammates and I do have opportunity get together, we still share stories of games won and lost, of road trips, and of those special times we shared together over four years that passed all too quickly.
Last year, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, one of the first events to take place on the road to recovery was a high school football game. Mosley High School played Pensacola High at Tommy Oliver Stadium. I remember reading a USA Today article where one local resident was quoted as saying, “We needed this,” referring to the game. As we settle into the “new normal” going forward here in Bay County and across northwest Florida, the truth of the matter is we still need ordinary events like high school football, girls volleyball, cross country and all the other fall sports that come with the beginning of the new school year. And our kids need to know of our support, care, and love. Athletics and extracurricular activities build and strengthen communities, playing an important role in the fabric of society. Even if you can’t make a game this fall, go buy a ticket. You’ll be making an investment in the lives of young people and helping our schools. You can’t go wrong there!
Bruce Springsteen sang of those “Glory Days” and how they will pass us by. My days on the field are long over. But there’s something special when we get to this time of year and the ball is teed up and put in play. Best of luck to all of our teams this year and a huge “thank you” to the many coaches, trainers, band directors, concession stand workers, parents, and other volunteers that make it all happen! I hope to see you under the lights on a Friday night sometime this fall.
Dr. Jeremy K. Pridgeon is the senior minister of the First United Methodist Church of Panama City, FL. If you have a “Glory Sighting” you would like to share, please feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.