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Newfane High School football team plays first-ever night home game

After years of darkness, the light finally came to Newfane.

Newfane High School’s varsity football team made history Friday when it played its first-ever night time home game against Tonawanda under portable lights.

The event took months of planning to pull off, including cooperation from the local government, Newfane residents and even Section VI football.

The idea was put into place by a group of local football boosters when they found out about an area school using portable lights to illuminate its football field. They brought the idea to former Newfane Superintendent Dr. Michael Wendt, and plans began to fall into place.

“We – myself, the parents and some of the sports boosters – have been wanting lights here at the field for many, many years,” Newfane Football Boosters Club President Jeff Brown said. “We know with budget constraints, we probably won’t see permanent lights for the foreseeable future. We heard about a team in the Southern Tier that brought in portable lights. We thought it was a great idea.”

The plan wasn’t without a few roadblocks, however. Most importantly, the schedule had to be altered. Newfane traditionally plays each home game on Saturday afternoon. Newfane athletic director Doug Ames had to find an opponent willing to accept the move to Friday night. After a few refusals, Tonawanda agreed to the move. The schedule change was then approved by Section VI Football Chairman Ken Stoldt.

By chance, Tonawanda’s accepting meant the game would be played on September 11 – the 14th annniversary of the 2001 terror attacks. This was not the school or booster club’s goal, but they made appropriate plans.

First responders from three local fire companies took to the field with area veterans for a flag ceremony, followed by renditions of “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” This was followed by a moment of silence for September 11 victims and a round of applause for the veterans and first responders.

The festivities continued during the game.

The local classic rock band named Double Barrell performed.

“They’re alumni of Newfane High School and they volunteered their time to play before the game," Brown said.

The Newfane Lions Club’s youth organization, the Newfane Leos, held a football toss game.

The 14 lights, provided by Admar Construction Equipment Rental, were powered by 14 generators.

The total rental cost $2,800, funded through donations from the Town of Newfane and the Niagara County Legislature to the Newfane Football Boosters Club.

As for the game, Newfane Coach Chuck Nagel saw a positive change in his players as the date approached.

“We’re all real excited about this,” Nagel said on Wednesday. “We were at practice yesterday and they were bringing the lights over. They were watching all that going on and you could just see the excitement. You could feel the energy in practice, it lifted up two-fold. Everybody was just on-point. You could tell that they were ready. They were really excited for this and really wanted to come out for this prepared.”

Fewer than 10,000 people populate Newfane, according to the most recent census. For a town that doesn’t usually garner much attention, this event means a lot.

“I believe it’s huge,” Brown said. “We’ve got nothing but positive responses from the public. The town of Newfane and Niagara County Legislature have been a great help. It’s the talk of the town right now.”

email: tnigrelli@buffnews.com