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Valiants football ready for Friday Night Lights

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - For the first time in the programs history, Valley Catholic will have lights on its football field.

There’s something mystical about high school football and Friday Night Lights.

The vibrancy of the student section, the galvanic buzz that runs through the stands as the lights flicker on and two teams sprint onto the gridiron are sensations that can’t be replaced.

For the first time in five seasons, the Valley Catholic football team will experience what high-powered Friday night football is all about when it takes on Blanchet Catholic at home under a new lighting system installed in July.

“For us, it’s a huge step,” said VC athletic director Joel Sobotka. “Friday nights are high school football. For the Valley Catholic community, our entire campus, alumni and the sisters and St. Mary’s, I think it’s going to be a neat event.”

A Valley Catholic High parent, who wished to remain anonymous, donated nearly all of the $200,000 needed to set the lighting process in motion. The lighting plan launched last fall, and around the middle of May, Sobotka and the school administration gave the green light to the project. In mid-June, right when school was getting out, construction began around the Valley Catholic football field. The digging for the poles and the installation of the poles took two weeks. The undertaking was completed in July.

Sobotka said he felt what the Valley Catholic athletic department really required was the ability to play football games on Friday nights. To the athletic director, football is a huge sport at the high school level, one that brings communities together and promotes positive fellowship amongst the student body.

“I think it kicks off your school year,” said Sobotka. “I have friends who go back to watch their high school play on a Friday night. I just felt that was the number one priority for us. We’re moving up to 4A next year, and this was a big step. It’s just amazing, the commitment of our administration and the sisters (of St. Mary of Oregon) to go forward with this.”

Playing on Saturdays was tough for the Valiants because all of the area high schools had played the previous night. To boot, youth football and soccer leagues are predominant on Saturdays in Beaverton. Couple in families flocking to the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and other colleges in the area to watch college football, and it amounted to an unfavorable scenario for the Valiants in terms of fan support and local buzz.

“You kind of felt like it was Pee Wee football all over again,” said senior quarterback Carter Buuck. “But we had it down to a science. We had our principal out cooking free hot dogs for anybody who wanted to come. It’ll just be a nice switch up to Friday Night Lights and something our school has been looking forward to for a long time.”by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - An anonymous donor gave nearly the full $200,000 to get Valley Catholics lighting of its football field off the ground.

The football team began practicing in the evening this week to get adjusted to the lights with an eye toward their home opener against Blanchet Catholic on Friday. Doug Ierardi has coached under illumination dating back to his days in New Hampshire, but even the veteran Valiant coach was giddy when the lights flashed on Monday.

“I think it’s a great thing for the program, the school and the kids,” said Ierardi. “There’s something about playing at home, literally in your backyard. I think it changes the dynamic for the school. Kids hang around on Friday, maybe they go grab a bite to eat, but around 7 o’clock this is hopefully where a lot of kids are going to be. There’s going to be a lot of noise, a lot of spirit and support that might not be there on a Saturday.”

Sobotka said the anticipation for game day and seeing the squad coming out of the tunnel on a Friday night instead of Saturday afternoon is palpable. What’s more is the lighting system will be used for more than just football.

“It’s a great community as it is, but I think it really gives us a platform to show that community spirit,” said Sobotka. “Even now we’re going to play some doubleheader soccer games this year. Our practice field is also lit, so we have a team practice at night and not be on the main field.”

Buuck alleged the Valiants have the pieces to make the state playoffs this year and said the lights are a symbol of a new day around Valley Catholic. In the past, Valley Catholic rented lighted venues such as Hillsboro Stadium and Liberty High School’s illuminated lot, but it didn’t have that homefield advantage feel to it. Valley Catholic made the most out of the Saturday situation, but they’re looking forward to the electricity of competing on the same day as the rest of the high school football world.

“We really think the lights signify that this is new Valley Catholic football, and we’re ready to go,” said Buuck. “The thing we think is so special is now with our own lights and own field, it really gives us our home advantage and something that Valley Catholic hasn’t really had. We think it’s something that can propel us as a football program. We feel we start our own winning tradition here.”

Senior linebacker/running back Liam Walsh said playing at Hillsboro Stadium felt like more of a neutral site contest instead of experiencing the friendly confines of home cooking. He’s been waiting for Friday night since his freshman year.

“To have lights my senior year is just incredible,” said Walsh. “When we’re trying to make the state playoffs for the first time, to get lights is just an extra boost. It’s just going to help us, it’s sweet. It’ll be easier to get a lot more people out for the game too. That’ll give us a bigger fan base.”

Ierardi said despite the publicity and promotion for the opener, he wants his team to treat the contest with the Cavaliers as just another game. He wanted the Valiants to get used to the glare during practice this week so Friday won’t be a distraction.

“We want to get used to that so that when Friday comes, that mystique has worn off and we can get down to business for 48 minutes,” said Ierardi. “I told the guys Blanchet won’t care about that, for them it’s another game. We have to get rid of those first game jitters.”




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