Reminder why home games rule

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By Brian Forbes

The first annual Mountain Bowl was a not-so-subtle reminder of many things worth applauding.

You think community spirit is dying? Maybe, but not when it comes to the football programs at Evergreen and Conifer high schools.

Longtime Conifer coach Larry Fitzmaurice has lobbied for years to try and get this rivalry game moved up to the schools and away from the sterile district environment at Trailblazer Stadium in Lakewood.

The Evergreen boosters and school administrators, tasked with hosting the first installment, came up with bleachers (OK, so maybe they were more like choir risers), commemorative programs, tons of food, a celebrity announcer and thousands of other little things that most of us will probably never know about but certainly enjoyed.

These people all deserve our thanks.

While Conifer’s 47-0 victory was both earned and lopsided, it also should have been a beautiful sight for all to behold.

Folks, this is what prep football is supposed to be like. This is Friday Night Lights. These are the kinds of games that give towns, schools, parents and the student body a sense of community.

Back in simpler times, the high schools owned Friday, leaving Thursday for studying and the weekend for the college and professional football players.

As someone who went to high school in Dallas, I can’t tell you how much I hate covering big games at district sites, often played in front of less-than-capacity crowds.

What’s the purpose of having a home game with no home-field advantage? Who ever goes to Trailblazer to defend their home turf? Who ever heard of a home game – especially a homecoming game – that involved driving 40 minutes one way just to reach the stadium?

When was the last time you saw two school buses packed with screaming students pull into the parking lot at Trailblazer before a game? Watching the Conifer students arrive before Friday’s game, I could only smile. They were chanting “Conifer!”, as they well should, and they kept making noise all the way to their seats (which were right on the sideline … and while that might have obstructed some views when action was on the other side of the field, no one seemed to care).

By kickoff, the place was packed. The energy and electricity were palpable. You had cheerleaders. Students singing the national anthem. The pom squad. And you had the marching band. You had everything you’re supposed to have on any given home football game.

And pride was oozing everywhere.

My dear students, don’t let the adults take that away from you. Don’t let us older folks temper your school pride, or allow these big games to become just another warm and fuzzy moment in sports.

We have too many of those. I’m a big believer in sportsmanship and respect, but the notion that our behavior is more important than the score strikes me as funny. You think anyone who suited up and played Friday is going to forget 47-0? You think Evergreen players won’t have that number stuck in their heads while they’re lifting weights and going to camps this coming offseason ahead of the 2010 game at Conifer?

Games like the Mountain Bowl are the kind of special moments athletes and their schools will remember forever.

You should have seen the crazed look in the eye of Conifer senior fullback/linebacker Kalvin Winter afterwards. This kid was so amped up during the game, and he was practically delirious with excitement standing at midfield while the Lobos held their new trophy aloft.

“At halftime I walked up there and I looked down and I didn’t even know there were that many people,” he said of the crowd. “It was crazy.”

Indeed. And it was also beautiful.