Scholastic teams haven’t moved past Saturday afternoon football, but more and more programs are joining the Friday Night Lights club.
This season, Starpoint, Sweet Home and Williamsville North are among the schools that have to adjust from playing under natural to artificial lighting before the home folks. Sweet Home plays its first Friday night home game in Week Two. Starpoint and Williamsville North must wait until Week Three.
“When I started 31 years ago, on Saturday afternoon people didn’t have anything to do and would start the day watching the Spartans play,” longtime Starpoint coach Al Cavagnaro said. “Going to Friday night, instead of drawing 400 people on Saturday, we figure about three times as many people will come and watch us play, which is pretty exciting.”
The importance of games feels magnified when played at night, whether one is 8 years old or a 28-year-old professional. One huge benefit of Friday night football is players will receive more recuperation time, two days of rest instead of just Sunday.
There is a negative. Many coaches love Saturday games because it gives them an extra day to prepare.
“I’ve talked to a lot of guys and picked their brain about what their routine was because it certainly changes things for us,” Cavagnaro said. “That Monday (during the practice week) now becomes Tuesday. … Thursday is now walkthrough day. As a coach I am a little worried about adapting to that. We had to do that maybe once a year or twice a year (in the past). Now we probably have to do that every week so there is concern about that.”
Teams have made adjustments.
Nearly 70 percent of the games on the 2016 schedule are on Fridays. There is one Saturday with fewer than 11 games. That’s opening weekend, with eight games scheduled.
Weeks Two and Five tie for the most Saturday games at 16 apiece. Week Seven’s Rivalry Week features just 12 Saturday games, including Canisius at St. Joe’s and Kenmore West at Kenmore East.
Starpoint also has installed an all-weather surface, bidding farewell to the days of having to nurture a natural-grass field. That coupled with night games and the fact Starpoint figures to contend in Class A North gives the Spartans plenty of reasons to shout.
“The kids are very excited,” Cavagnaro said.
Starpoint isn’t the only program saying so long to natural grass.
Kenmore East, Sweet Home, Clarence and Williamsville North also are among the teams to have installed all-weather surfaces. The installation of the new field is the reason why Kenmore East will play its first two home games at Tonawanda High School’s Clint H. Small Stadium.