“Where is the stadium?” This was the question addressed to me by one of my young golfers, who had just transferred to Matoaca from a high school in Texas. It was his assumption that our stadium was merely a practice facility. Before the first football game, the same student wanted to know, “What channel is it on?” High school football is a different animal in Texas, but in most of the country football is a defining element for high schools.
Last week, we got our annual taste of big-time high school football, as L.C. Bird travelled east to take on Thomas Dale in the “Battle of Chester.” The game is recognized as a “national rivalry game,” and is marked by plenty of hype, standing-room-only crowds, marching bands, banners and even advance ticket sales. The crowd was advertised as “over 4,000” by the local daily. That’s a nice number, but when you realize the combined enrollment of the two schools exceeds that number, the crowd doesn’t seem quite as huge. High school football in Central Virginia just isn’t quite what it is in some parts of the country, even those as close as the Roanoke Valley.
I would love to see the community step up to the plate in support of its schools, regardless of the opponent. Getting excited over the Bird-Dale game is understandable, but we should always be excited when it comes to supporting our kids. Attending the Friday night football game is an easy and fun way to support the school. If your child participates in another sport or another activity, it is often football admission that pays the freight for those other activities in this revenue-driven world. Being equally supportive when it comes to a C.D. Hylton or a George Wythe helps not only the football team, but also every other student activity in the school. While at the game, please also support the concession stand that is often manned by a non-revenue sports team trying to elevate its program.
The Friday game itself was a hard-hitting affair won by Bird, thus knotting the series. The Skyhawks appear to be the team on a collision course with Hermitage for the Central Region title. Bird features Anthony Harris, a talented and poised young man, at quarterback. Yakkie Johnson is all over the field from his running back slot. The line is big and the defense is swarming. If they can find a way to eliminate penalties, Bird will be the dominant team in our area.
The Knights stand exactly where they were last year, with tough losses to the same Varina and Bird teams. Dale is young and talented, with improvement down the road almost a sure thing.
Whether it is Matoaca, Meadowbrook, Bird or Dale, the athletes and their coaches are laying it on the line. Do your part by showing up this Friday to support your team and your school.