The Post-Journal

Daytime Football Is Fine With JHS

Last month the Jamestown Public Schools announced a $53 million project proposal that includes $1.2 million of improvements to Strider Field. It includes replacement of the artificial turf, all-weather track and visiting bleachers; construction of a storage facility; and installation of cables and wire for possible lighting for night football games.

That caught me by surprise, as it did Jamestown High School football coach Wally Huckno. He had not heard of any plans to play night football at the Martin Road facility and that is why he was not upset when the proposal for lighting was withdrawn recently.

When it comes to night football in Jamestown, Huckno is for it – and against it.

“Personally I would love to play Friday night and have Saturday and Sunday to rest,” he said. “I hate Saturday nights; Friday nights would be great.”

But he is for it only if Strider field was located in an isolated area where night games would not be a disruption to the surrounding area.

However, Strider Field is located in a residential area and when plans were made to place the facility there, there were plenty of concerns from the citizens about traffic, parking and everything else associated with a high school football game. And those concerns were simply about playing in the day. Playing at night would really cause an uproar.

Huckno understands the Martin Road residents’ concerns because he was an assistant coach when the Red Raiders played on Saturday nights at the former College Stadium.

“I’ve not been in favor of it (night football at Strider field) because I remember the problems we had in the (College Stadium) area,” he said. “It brings out so many people who have no interest in football.”

He added, “That’s why North Tonawanda abandoned Payne Field.”

North Tonawanda was one of three schools in Division 1 that always played on Friday nights at Payne Field. But now the Lumberjacks are playing at a new field without lights to avoid the problems they had with night games.

“So now all we have is Orchard Park and Lancaster,” Huckno said about the only teams left in Division 1 playing home games at night.

Like Strider Field, he pointed out many of the Division 1 fields are located in neighborhoods, which makes day games more practical.

When asked whether Jamestown fans want home games at night, Huckno said, “I don’t see any groundswell to change. I’ve been approached by some interested people in the community. They fondly remember Friday night football and Saturday night football.

However, the Red Raiders haven’t played home games at night since 1978 and now the team has become associated with day games and that’s fine with Huckno.

“Some of the greatest teams in the country, like Michigan and Penn State, relish playing Saturday afternoon games, so it can’t be such a bad idea,” he said.

Huckno knows the Red Raiders lose some fans by playing in the day.

“We know Saturday afternoon is their catch up day at home,” he said, referring to taking care of chores around the house. “The result is they pass on high school football games.”

One advantage for the Red raiders is now that Maple Grove plays a majority of its home games at night along with Southwestern and Falconer, that leaves Frewsburg as the only area school in close proximity to Strider Field that also plays on Saturday afternoons. So usually the Red Raiders are the “only game in town.”

“I never really thought about that,” Huckno said.

None of the Jamestown players think about playing home games at night because to them, football at home means Saturday afternoons.

“The youngsters know nothing different,” Huckno said, considering they were born after the Red Raiders last played at night. “It would be foreign to them (playing home games at night).”

Jamestown does get a taste of night football a few times a season with Division I games at Orchard Park and Lancaster or with a non-divisional game against an opponent such as Lake Shore. It changes the team’s routine, but the player’s don’t mind.

“There’s no doubt we prepare differently. Monday becomes a much more strenuous workday,” Huckno said.

It means a change in the week’s practice schedule, but Huckno doesn’t think his opponents who play a majority of their games at night have an advantage. The Red Raiders might have the advantage because they get fired up for a rare game under the lights.

“The kids are generally excited,” he said. “We get them out of school a period early. For a 7:30 game, we like to arrive before 5 o’clock. I don’t think we’re at a disadvantage, because they look forward to going up north and playing on Friday night.”

The experience spreads into Saturday morning because the Red Raiders usually don’t arrive home until 1:30-2 a.m. after having their postgame meal at a Buffalo-area restaurant.

Then comes the luxury of a Saturday off.

“They kind of like that,” Huckno said with a laugh. “It gives them the opportunity to strut around in their ‘J’ jackets at the junior varsity game.”

He added they usually only do that after a Friday night, it would create some problems for Division I opponents in the Buffalo area.

“They are reluctant to have an early release time,” he said. “It’s very foreign to them.”

But Red Raiders opponents won’t have to worry about that because football at Strider Field will remain a daylight affair. That’s fine with Huckno and the Martin Road residents.

“If you’re going to pick battles, you pick battles you can win and that’s a battle that can’t be won,” he said about night football at Strider Field. “We have support from senior citizens and home owners and I wouldn’t want to antagonize them.”

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.