When it comes to M-A sporting events, one opponent always seems to stand out: Sacred Heart Prep (SHP). Even before I came to M-A, I understood the hype around playing against this rival school from my older brother. Games against SHP come once a season, and it is a cherished game for both schools to show who has the better athletics program and student support section. Additionally, games versus SHP in football, as well as in other sports, are often the most attended. Last year’s home game against the Gators came with a lot of adrenaline, ending with a missed field goal from the SHP kicker, giving M-A a 17-14 victory. However, with such a history of excitement and competition, many students are wondering: Why is the game this year at SHP being held during school hours?
The away game on October 14 starts at 3 p.m., 15 minutes before M-A releases students. This start time makes it difficult for many students to attend, and even impossible for others. Some upperclassmen are even considering leaving school early in order to arrive on time for the game. Many students, including 12th Man captain Peter Hilton, believe this time slot is unfair and suspect SHP scheduled the game to purposely prevent a large crowd from M-A. Hilton thinks it “smells a little fishy” and claimed, “4 p.m. is plenty of time to finish a football game before it gets dark.”
Despite these rumors, there is a reason for the early game time, albeit a little strange. During the football season, the Peninsula Athletic League (PAL) requires all night games to be played with lights. Because SHP’s field lacks the necessary lighting, the school only rents lights for one night game a season, which is paired with a community celebration. Any games played in October must begin before 3 p.m. to avoid darkness if the game runs late. Although unfortunate, SHP Athletic Director Bret Simon explained, “The league requires all games at fields that don’t have lights to start at 3 p.m. in October and 2:45 p.m. in November to avoid problems with daylight if the games run late. So that’s out of our control.” With that being said, it is unfortunate that the league has these rules, which in the end takes away from the feeling of “Friday Night Lights.”
Without lights available, the league’s stance against night games at SHP is understandable. However, for such a popular event, I find it strange that SHP would not pursue the option of renting lights. Even though the night game coincides with a single town celebration, playing under the lights more often would create a positive activity for students. For many students, Friday night is an opportunity to unwind from the previous week. School sponsored night games offer a safer, supervised way for students to connect with friends and classmates in a positive, spirited way. Limiting these opportunities only leads to students connecting in ways that are frowned upon. These same students who may have gone to the game, might instead be making noise at a house party somewhere else.
So where does this leave M-A students? Though it is too late to change the game time, students can still make it before the end of the first half (if they hustle). The best way to make up for this unlucky situation? Come to the game on Friday and cheer as loud as you can for our Bears. Finally, while SHP, the league and local residents move blame around to make it impossible to know who is really behind the early time, it is ultimately the students that suffer. Keeping the lights off will do nothing but leave students with fewer safe options to participate in their local community. Local priorities should be on students and their needs and keeping them in the dark does no one any good.