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Friday night isn't the only time to play some high school football

Michael DiVittorio
| Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, 11:00 a.m.
The Riverview football team takes the field between members of the marching band before their afternoon game against Clairton Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, at Riverside Park in Oakmont. Riverside Park does not have lights, so the Raiders play home games on Saturday afternoons.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Riverview football team takes the field between members of the marching band before their afternoon game against Clairton Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, at Riverside Park in Oakmont. Riverside Park does not have lights, so the Raiders play home games on Saturday afternoons.
Captains from Clairton and Riverview meet with the referee before their afternoon game on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, at Riverside Park in Oakmont. Riverside Park does not have lights, so the Raiders play home games on Saturday afternoons.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Captains from Clairton and Riverview meet with the referee before their afternoon game on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, at Riverside Park in Oakmont. Riverside Park does not have lights, so the Raiders play home games on Saturday afternoons.

Most local high school coaches agree that Friday nights were made for football.

“I believe 95 percent of everybody prefers to play on Fridays,” Jeannette Coach Roy Hall said. “I’m sure of the schools that play Saturday, most would love to play Friday night.”

Hall’s been involved with Jeannette’s program for 33 years and is in his 10th season as head coach. The team won the PIAA Class 1A championship last season.

Hall said the team rarely plays on Saturdays.

“If we play on a Saturday, it’s because (the opponent’s) home field doesn’t have lights,” Hall said.

Riverside Park in Oakmont, home of the Riverview Raiders, is one of those fields. The borough owns the field used by the the high school team for home games.

Borough Manager Lisa Cooper Jensen said the idea of permanent lights at the field was discussed several times throughout the years, but it doesn’t look like they will be installed any time soon.

“The various councils that have gone before us have traditionally been against installing lights at the park because these lights are terrifically expensive, and the safety factor of night games versus daytime games,” Jensen said. “The school pays to have portable lights brought in.”

A proposal by the Oakmont recreation board last year indicated it would cost at least $98,000 to install 20 LED lights on 10-foot poles at the park, and that did not factor long-term maintenance costs. They would have been used for more than just football games.

Coach Todd Massack said it’s more than just lack of money and risk that keeps Riverview’s Saturday schedule on the books decade after decade.

“Some people say it’s a tradition at Riverview, and I played at Riverview and understand that tradition,” he said. “I wish there were lights there.

“We do bring in portable lights for one game a year. We get a great crowd for that game. The students come out for that game, and we have a great student section. It’s probably the best crowd at that game.”

Most Riverview players meet for dinner the Friday before a game. Some go out afterward to other schools like Penn Hills and Plum to watch them play.

Massack said families have a lot more options on how to spend Saturday afternoons.

“There are so many other things going on,” he said. “Kids work, you’re competing against college football, for some folks who don’t have a connection to the team or band or cheerleaders, they might have something else going on. Some people work all week long. Saturday and Sunday they have to get their laundry done. Sometimes going to a high school football game isn’t one of those things. If our opponent has lights, then we play Friday night at their place. Because we don’t have lights at our home games, we play Saturday at noon.”

WPIAL scheduling

WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley said there are no set rules as far as when games need to be played.

“It’s up to the schools,” he said. “We give them the schedule (of opponents), and they post what day they’re playing and what time.

“The fan base is the one that drives it and, I think, probably here in Western Pennsylvania, it’s Friday night.”

WPIAL covers all or parts of 10 counties, including Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland.

O’Malley said, out of its more than 120 schools, “You can probably count on one hand the schools in Western Pennsylvania that don’t have lights.”

Saturdays unusual

Joshua Shoop, Pine-Richland School District’s athletic director, said his school had one Saturday home game in the past seven seasons — just last week — and its scheduling was because of an Earth, Wind & Fire concert at the stadium the night before.

“I can’t say why they’re all Friday nights,” Shoop said about Pine-Richland games. “I think it was an effort to get the most people in the stadium. It’s really a community event. Friday night is typically a night when (families are) not working. They’re not going anywhere. We can get the most people possible at these events.”

Shoop said he remembers when Saturday games were the place to be.

“When I was in high school, a lot of schools didn’t have lights at their stadiums,” he said.

Shoop echoed Massack’s comments about family weekend schedules.

“There’s a lot of activity on the weekends,” he said. “Parents go places. They do things. Friday night is when you can capture the greatest amount of people.”

Extra day

Summit Academy in Butler County plays on Saturdays and does not have lights for its football games.

The academy is a bit different than a traditional educational institution. It’s a private, residential school for court-adjudicated youths ages 14-19 in grades 9-12. They live on campus.

Coach Steve Sherer said Saturdays provide families an extra day to plan a visit, and the players an extra day to prepare for games.

“I think what it does do, is it gives us something to look forward to on the weekend,” Sherer said. “It’s a day where parents can come out, and they get to see a sport. We have a beautiful campus. It’s not just the football team that has an opportunity to participate in interscholastic athletics. The drum line practices every day. It’s pretty festive on a Saturday on our campus.”

Sherer said Monday is typically a recovery day for teams that play on Saturdays.

Players would watch film, maybe lift some weights. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday would be used for regular practice while putting a game plan in place. Friday would be a walk-through without much strenuous activity.

“We need all the planning that we can get,” Sherer said. “Friday is another day of preparation, and I think our kids need that. I don’t know how other coaches feel about that, playing us on Saturday. I like the fact that we have another day of preparation.”

Jeannette’s Hall said those who play Friday night games may watch film Saturday mornings and get a workout in before watching college football or doing some other activity. Monday may be more of the same with some game planning. Tuesday and Wednesday would be hard practices and Thursday a walk-through without much hitting.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, mdivittorio@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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