The Joliet Central and West football teams have not experienced a home night game since the return to separate programs in 2010.
That will change when the new season begins Aug. 29. Both Joliet Township schools have one home night game on the schedule.
Let’s hope it goes off without a hitch.
“We just had a few issues not involving our students, and we needed to change,” District Director of Activities and Athletics Chris Olson said of the move away from home night games. “I hope people embrace it this time.”
Make no mistake, high school football was created for Friday nights, the exception being when a field does not have lights. West and Central have lights. Central’s field is in a gorgeous setting in the daytime. Imagine it at night.
I have talked with players and coaches from both schools in recent years. They weren’t complaining, but it was evident night games would have been preferable.
In the case of the JT schools, however, safety at night games is a consideration.
“They’re going to do it the right way and make sure everyone is safe,” West coach Jason Aubry said. “They’ll try it once and see how it goes.”
Coach Brett Boyter’s Central team will open at home against Thornridge at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 29. Aubry and West will entertain Stagg at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 10. No sophomore game is scheduled either night.
“There are lots of activities after school that day, including a DJ, to keep kids there so they aren’t leaving and coming back,” Olson said of Central’s opener, which kicks off about three hours after school is dismissed.
No tickets will be sold at the game. Everyone planning to attend must purchase a ticket in advance, with the stipulation that students may purchase their own ticket only. They may not buy tickets for other students or for nonstudents.
Parents and other adults must come into school at designated times and locations between Aug. 18 and Aug. 28 to purchase their tickets.
Olson noted that a committee including the principals, assistant principals and superintendent Dr. Cheryl McCarthy reviewed previous issues with night games. The administration has been meeting with members of the Joliet Police Department to make sure all i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.
“The committee knew the community wanted night games,” Olson said. “We had to make sure Central is ready for this on opening night.”
Among those who spoke at a board meeting in favor of night games were Mitch Dolak, a senior quarterback at West, and representatives of the Joliet West Band Boosters.
“Mitch ran with it and wanted to see what he could do,” Aubry said. “There was a website where he put out a petition. The administration had been talking about this for a long time, but he did a good job stepping out. He was a voice to be heard.”
“The West band boosters were pretty vocal,” Olson said. “Playing Friday night allows the band to enter more competitions on Saturdays, or not miss games on Saturdays.
“It would be awesome if we could make this work. We will reassess it after this year. But I will say this, I have a lot of faith in our student body.”
• Dick Goss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.