High school football is more than the game itself; it's community | Opinion

Aug. 13—Hands on his hips, Tiger LaVerde scanned the progress being made at Kirtland's new artificial turf field.

Whipping out his cell phone, he pulled up a photo of what he cannot wait to see on Friday nights. And it wasn't a photo of his juggernaut Hornets pile-driving an opposing team.

It was a photo of what the completed project would look like. Specifically, it was a 40-yard "practice" field that would rest on the east end of the newly named Wilson Stadium behind the east end zone running perpendicular to the actual field on which the Hornets will play.

"That," LaVerde said, "is what I wanted most. I want to be able to look down at that little field on Friday nights when we're playing and see the kids of our community — our future — down there playing next to us."

The words that LaVerde accentuated was "community" and "future."

A lot of times, the early weeks of August are loaded with team previews and a lot of "out with the old, and in with the new." The 2022 season is in the past and 2023 is the focus. That mantra is certainly true to a point.

There are a lot of new things about the 2023 football season that is on our doorstep. Things such as:

—New football coaches at Benedictine (Joe Prevesk), Gilmour (Tom Kaufman) and NDCL (Anthony Baldesare).

—New turf fields at both Kirtland and VASJ, as well as new amenities across the area like Cardinal's new concession stand and restroom facilities.

—A new playoff format, in which all postseason football games will be played on Friday nights until state championship week rolls around in December.

—And of course, new players and new leaders on the field for every team across The News-Herald area.

But while it's refreshing to usher in some new facets and faces for the 2023 season, it's also important to hold on what is tradition-rich. And that goes back to LaVerde's accentuated words when looking at a photo of what a small "practice" field will look like when Wilson Stadium is complete.

Community and future.

High school football is all about community. And those young men out there on the field, as well as the cheerleaders on the sideline, the band members belting out their tunes and the kids in the student section — that's our future.

So whatever is "out with the old," that will never be it.

When the whistle blows Friday night and the 2023 season is officially kicked off, you're going to see some tremendous student-athletes who devoted a big chunk of their summer months to working out, building chemistry with their teammates and sharpening their skills all in the name of teamwork, conference championship runs and postseason glory.

But while the focus for the next three months or so will be on what is going on between the white lines on Friday nights, take a moment to see what is going on outside the lines as well.

You'll see the cheerleaders filled with energy representing their school and team.

You'll see teenagers with musical instruments in their hands, marching in unison while both entertaining fans at halftime and celebrating their team with rousing renditions of their school's fight song.

You'll see grandstands packed with fans, roped-off sidelines lined with people from around town coming to see the big game. Many aren't even parents or family members — they're simply townsfolk wanting to see the watch.

You'll see young kids beyond each end zone playing a pick-up game of football with their friends while the varsity game is going on.

Those are things that make high school football special. Yes, it's about the teams themselves, but it's so much more than that. It's about bringing a community together. It's about celebrating both our present and our future.

So when that opening kickoff flies into the air and the 2023 season finally gets going, look around. Notice everything. And celebrate it.

Celebrate it all.

Because no matter who graduates every spring, the show that is high school football is brand new every single fall.

That should make us all proud — and maybe even give us some goosebumps now and then.