Saturday afternoons are typically the domain of college football, but one Wisconsin high school will be forced to compete in that time slot this season.
As reported by WiscNews.com, a January windstorm caused damage to the lighting system at Veterans Memorial Football Field, forcing Waupun (Wis.) High School athletic director Doug Disch to get to work on replacing it and rescheduling the traditional Friday night kickoffs to Saturdays.
“High school football is Friday night lights,” said interim Waupun coach Adrian Harmsen, who took over the program when previous coach Ron Walters resigned one week before the season was set to start. “Everybody loves Friday night lights. For us, that was a tough loss or that was something really hard to swallow hearing that we have to play on Saturdays.”
The original six light fixtures were built on wooden poles. Disch said one of the poles broke during the wind storm and a light fell down.
Disch started seeking quotes as to what it would take to renovate the lighting system. Companies told him at least one pole has to come down while the others were recommended to come down.
One of the first things we ran into is these lighting companies, you have to keep in mind is you’re hanging a 50- or 60-plus pound light at about 50- or 60-feet in the air,” Disch said. “It has to be done in a way that’s safe for people that are going to be underneath it.”
Disch said by fixing the wiring, replacing the six wood poles with four metal poles and adding additional lights would cost an estimated $300,000. He said those expenses would have to be approved by the Waupun School Board. A subcommittee has been formed to evaluate the options. It consists of school board members, the Waupun school district superintendent, booster club members, community members and a representative from the city of Waupun.
The light-replacement project, if approved, would have to wait until 2023.
“They said you’re not really in any rush,” Disch said. “You wouldn’t be able to get anything in place for fall. I understand that and that’s a pretty big construction project. Construction projects can get behind schedule.”
Even moving the games to Saturdays has created conflicts. Disch said he recently finalized officials for newly scheduled dates.
“As the AD, I was really concerned about [construction] that happens late and having to reschedule late is a concern for me because ... there’s a drastic shortage of football varsity officials in our area,” Disch said. “Trying to find a crew of five licensed varsity officials on a different day or time, they’re probably booked somewhere else.”
Harmsen said having Saturday games comes with pros and cons. In years past, Saturday mornings were for the Warriors to watch film of the game from the night before. They would also help out with the town’s youth program. Instead, the Warriors have another day of practice ahead of home games. “That really disrupted the way our program flows,” Harmsen said.
A road game following a home game leaves one less day of rest. Harmsen said they will change the workload on Mondays’ practice schedules. Instead of having full-contact practices, the Warriors will study new opponents’ film and lift weights.
Harmsen said the Warriors are going to give the fans the college experience, including tailgating and potentially other fun activities such as corn hole games and a dunk tank.
“I was talking to the parents when we had a parent meeting that it may not be the tailgating you and I know, but it’s going to be fun and entertaining,” he said. “We’re trying to get all the kids from all the other schools … back to the football field. We think tailgating is getting that hometown experience."