Homecoming to be Played Under the Friday Night Lights: The Administration Acts on Trust

Lighting+Up+The+Night%3A+A+packed+crowd+turned+out+for+the+first+game+under+the+lights+last+September%2C+a+49-28+victory+over+St.+Joes.

Will McDonald

Lighting Up The Night: A packed crowd turned out for the first game under the lights last September, a 49-28 victory over St. Joes.

Will McDonald and Simon Stracher

On September 20th, the annual Staples High School senior motorcade will roll into the school parking lot to enjoy a homecoming football game that, for the first time in school history, will be played under the lights on a late-summer Friday evening.

While an outsider may view this as a unimportant occurrence – since the installation of the lights last year, Friday nights have become the customary kick-off time for Staples football – the decision to change the homecoming game time reflects not just a change in the football team’s schedule, but a resurging trust that the administration has in the student body.

This trust frayed four years ago, when a number of students attended the 2009 homecoming football game after consuming alcohol, with five ultimately sent to the hospital. However, with an entirely different student population now populating the halls of Staples, Principal John Dodig is willing to try something new.

“I firmly believe that there’s always room for redemption. Every four years is a brand new world here,” Dodig said.

Since 2009, which Dodig described as a “fiasco,” homecoming games have been held in late October at 10 a.m. on a Saturday, with last year’s homecoming moved under the lights on a Thursday due to scheduling conflicts created by Hurricane Sandy. Prior to the fi rst Friday night game last year, Principal Dodig met with the entire senior class and stressed that there would be consequences for any student caught under the influence. According to Dodig, last year’s season of Friday night football passed largely incident- free.

After last year’s good behavior, Dodig began asking students if they thought students could handle a Friday night homecoming. Their answers were all in the affirmative. He also met with a group of students from the Teen Awareness Group (TAG) to discuss the potential for underage drinking at a Friday night homecoming.

“We told Principal Dodig that we were confident that if given this opportunity, students would stay safe and have a great experience,” said co-President of TAG Gabbie Leblanc ’14. “We have already had successful and safe night games, so we believe that homecoming will be a success as well.”

The prospect of a homecoming under the lights has students, especially seniors, very excited.

“I’m thrilled because it’s something we’ve never had before, and it fits the stereotype of what senior year homecoming is supposed to be,” said president of Superfans Andrew Felmon ’14.

While Felmon did find the idea of a night game atmosphere thrilling, he was equally pleased by the fact that the scheduling of the game highlights “that the fans have earned the trust of the administration. It shows how far we’ve come from a couple years ago.”

For anyone looking to violate that trust, Dodig stresses that the consequence will be severe and clear-cut. According to Dodig, anyone caught under the influence at the game will not be walking the stage with his or her class at graduation in June.

Leblanc hopes that students are aware that the consequences go further than just being personal.

“If anyone did choose to behave badly at the game, they should know that they would be embarrassing not only themselves, but they would be casting a bad light on the student body as a whole,” she said.

Felmon thinks this year’s homecoming will come and go without incident.

“I just don’t think anyone wants to be known as the person – or the class – who ruined homecoming,” he said.

Dodig stressed that he was not on a crusade to end underage drinking at Staples – he just wants students to have the self-control to regulate themselves in public.

“I tell students that I’m old enough and wise enough to know that I cannot regulate what they do in their personal lives,” he said.

“All I ask is that for the two or three hours that a school event takes place, they behave and comport themselves according to school rules,” he said. “I’m taking time out of my life to be there, as are other teachers, and we hope that students respect that and behave accordingly.”

While many seniors are excited about the change, for juniors, the excitement comes mixed with another feeling: apprehension. Any potential long-term punishment would impact them during their senior year.

“Homecoming for the past two years has provided some terrific games to watch with friends alongside me, and this year should only be better now that it’s under the lights,” said Luis Cruz ’13. “I just hope everyone can have fun and enjoy themselves without getting too rowdy, because I really want and deserve experience the same thing my senior year.”

Dodig made clear that a handful of bad-behaving “outliers” would not be enough to merit a change in the way Staples does homecoming. However, if it is clear that the behavior is widespread, Dodig’s choice is simple.

“We’d just go back to Saturday morning homecomings,” he paused. “Or no homecoming.”