I did one of those things I promised myself on Oct. 7, 2005 that I have to do.
I went to a high school football game on Friday night. It wasn’t the most fish out of water thing for me to do, but it was one of those things I wanted to do, although I’m not entirely sure why.
Part of the reason I went is because the chamber of commerce executive director, whom I talk to periodically and not always for a story I’m writing for my newspaper, has been a big booster of the local high school team for the past few years since her sons both played on the team.
Her youngest son graduated, but she still plans to attend the weekly games along with other parents whose children have moved on. She has always invited me to join her group at a game, and I always tell myself I should.
I had hoped to visit a friend on Friday night, but he had to scrap that plan, so that left me with an open evening. Given the local high school was playing one of its big conference rivals, I decided it would be the game I attend. The mild weather early in the season was an added plus.
So, on Friday night I attended my first high school football game in more than 10 years, Minnetonka vs. Wayzata at Wayzata High School.
I’m not sure if Twin Cities suburban football holds a candle to the legend of high school football in Texas, but this was quite an event. I have no idea how many people attended, and I’m bad at estimating, but I have to think that there were more than 4,000 at the field for the game. It was a zoo.
The game turned out to be quite a contest. Minnetonka’s kicker missed a 34-yard field goal with barely a minute to play, giving Wayzata a 23-21 victory.
Minnetonka looked like it was going to dominate the game in the first half. The teams alternated touchdowns in the first half, giving Minnetonka a 14-7 lead. Minnetonka had a chance to take a two touchdown lead late in the first half. About 10 yards from the end zone in the final minute or so the Minnetonka quarterback threw an interception, sending the teams to the locker room with a 14-7 score.
Wayzata scored on a long touchdown pass on the second play of the second half, but had its extra point blocked, making the score 14-13. Wayzata quickly shut down Minnetonka’s offense and scored another touchdown, giving the team its first lead, 20-14.
Whatever defensive adjustment Wayzata made at half time, it worked. Minnetonka was lackluster on offense and its defense was struggling to control Wayzata’s offense.
A missed field goal by Wayzata did little to inspire Minnetonka, as Wayzata made a field goal on its next possession, giving the team a 23-14 lead with less than 6 minutes remaining in the game.
Minnetonka finally had a breakthrough, however, on the following possession, moving the ball down the field and scoring a touchdown with about 3 minutes remaining.
On Wayzata’s next possession Minnetonka was able to contain Wayzata on three running plays, using time outs to stop the clock after two short runs and then forcing a fumble on third down, creating a short field for Minnetonka’s potential game winning drive. Minnetonka seemed to be playing for the field goal, calling three running plays seemingly in an effort to run down the clock prior to the kick. Three plays without a first down set up a 34-yard kick. The Minnetonka kicker had the distance, but the kick was just wide to the left, giving Wayzata the win.
I never found the chamber director’s group. I arrived just after kickoff and the visitor’s bleachers were packed, expect for one section on the far end, next to a student section. The students stand up during the entire game, for whatever reason, and although it doesn’t seem like many of them are actually paying attention, they immediately take their cue to cheer or boo when appropriate.
My section was quite empty, so I wondered if it was reserved for the marching band. There was no indication of it, and a few folks were sitting in the section, so I made my way to the top of it.
What I found during the first quarter is that the section became an overflow section for students. And there were plenty who arrived after kickoff. Holy cow! I had a group of junior high football players, wearing their jerseys, take occupancy of the few rows of bleachers behind me, along with their classmates. This group seemed to have little or no interest in the game, it was just a social gathering for them. Yikes!
As students from the high school began to fill my section, it reached a point where neither I nor the two people in front of me could see the game without standing up, so we did. What was funny was to watch some dude several rows below me. He was wearing a jersey with a number, so I assume he was a parent, but I was puzzled as to why he wasn’t with other parents. Perhaps he’s just a lonely alumnus hanging on to the glory of his high school years. Either way, he made several attempts to tell students they were block his view as they were filling the section, and was growing obviously frustrated each time a student passed in front of him or stopped to talk to a friend. I couldn’t help but laugh. Eventually he moved to the very end of the bleachers and resigned himself to standing to see the game.
I didn’t take a count, but a few non-students in my section vacated at half time. I figured I was never going to find another seat, so I opted to stick it out amongst the children.
Seeing today’s students cheer for their team reminded me that some things don’t change. Many students go to the game simply to socialize. They may wear school colors and participate in a cheer, but they’re not really interested in the action on the field.
Some students like to go over the top in expressing their school pride. That wasn’t a surprise. I forgot about one high school tradition, but it was good to see it was alive and well: girls wearing their boyfriend’s jersey. Since players have a home and away jersey, their girlfriends wear the opposite jersey on game day. That’s so cute!
Not surprising, technology makes it easier for students to socialize in this day and age. Most students didn’t seem to be busy working a cell phone, but plenty of them were busy calling somebody or sending a text message during the game. God bless privileged suburban kids.
What did I learn from attending a high school football game merely as a spectator for the first time in decades? I’m still sorry I didn’t embrace life during my high school years. College turned out to be a great experience, but I struggled with life in general during high school. It has been nearly two decades since that time of my life. I regret that I didn’t spend that time differently, and while it’s amusing to see today’s youth embracing their high school years, it doesn’t make me feel warm or fuzzy being an observer, even if the game on the field is compelling.