Law & Order, Staples Edition: Police Presence Heightened at Friday Night Lights
It is Sept. 15, the day after the first night football game under its own lights in Staples history. The Wreckers pulled off a win against St. Joe’s, and the game went off without a hitch. The students overflowed from the stands in a sea of white shirts and hats, and group cheers could be heard from the bleachers each time Staples scored throughout the game.
The game was both safe and successful, just as the administration had hoped. No incidents of misconduct were reported throughout the night.
Police officers, including police captain Sam Arciola, a former Wrecker himself, were stationed on the field facing the audience to keep an eye out. Additionally, officers were posted at entrances and exits and the Westport Police Department also sent officers to direct traffic after the game.
Although all viewed the game as a success, in the weeks leading up to the first night game in Staples’ history, there was certainly buzz over what safety precautions would be taken.
This summer, when the new lights were added to the Staples football field, students, parents, and administrators alike were excited to see the lights shine for the first night game.
However, when these lights were put in place, a new worry was put in place as well.
With night football games comes old worries, such as underage drinking and other risky behaviors taking place on school grounds.
The issue of misconduct at athletic events is not new to the Staples administration, which has been trying to educate students about the dangers of alcohol consumption after a Homecoming football game in 2009, during which students were reportedly out of hand. Since that time, security at day games and Homecoming in particular has been heightened, and with the impending night game on Sept. 14, the administration was not taking any chances.
“My plea to the students is that they don’t screw it up for 20 minutes of fun,” Principal John Dodig said. “I don’t interfere with your private life, but this is a school event and I expect that you’ll behave.”
In an effort to maintain the level of precaution taken before big football games, such as tightened security at entrances to school as well as officers stationed on the field, the senior class attended a mandatory assembly the day of the game to discuss the expectations. At the assembly, students heard pleas from Principal Dodig, senior class assistant principal Patrick Micinilio, as well as football coach Marce Petroccio. For the most part, they all had the same message: be careful, and behave.
Although no risky behaviors in particular were mentioned, students knew the context of the speech.
“I thought it was interesting that they only called seniors to the assembly and no one else; other grades are just as susceptible,” Perri Cohen ’13 said.
Students were made aware of the repercussions of misconduct at the game, such as an automatic suspension.
Additionally, any seniors caught misbehaving could potentially lose their opportunity to participate in the senior internship in May.
In addition to the administration taking steps to look out for misconduct at the game, the Westport Police Department was also prepared with necessary security plans to ensure safety.
However, Arciola explained that the security precautions were the same ones that are always in place for Staples football games, which can reach upwards of two thousand fans.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel here,” Arciola said. “You’ll see us at different locations of the facility, you’ll see us at the ticket booth, you’ll see us on both sides of the field. You’ll see us.”
The safety of fans at the first night football game was a priority. Staples and town administrators as well as the police department worked to create a secure environment.
But regardless of the scoreboard, the future of night games at Staples could only be determined by the conduct of the fans themselves.
After a successful first game, there seemed to be even more buzz among students regarding the second night game on Sept. 21.
Again, no reports of student misconduct were reported at the game, although one student did suffer an injury from a fall off the bleachers.
The Wreckers pulled out a 49-6 win against Bridgeport Central High School, and the presence, as well as the behavior of the fans did not go unnoticed by members of the team.
“My thought process was that if we didn’t do the right things that first Friday night, it would be a problem for the rest of the season, and they did a tremendous job,” football coach Marce Petroccio said.
Although Dodig did not send out an email to Staples families after the Sept. 21 game, the email he did send at 7:30 a.m. after the first night game seemed to say it all.
“I saw my students having the time of their lives,” wrote Dodig in his email. “It made me as proud of them as I would be of my own daughter.”