High school football has some of the greatest atmospheres you’ll experience when dealing with sports. No matter where it is, football on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon always seems to draw great crowds and interesting people.
With my job, I’m lucky enough to see a lot of football games a year, so I get to see different things. The 2,000+ crowd on a nice, but crisp fall afternoon — dug out in a valley of central New York with the fall colors vibrant and glistening for a rivalry game to the 500 on a Friday evening that are there just to enjoy their school play ball.
Nothing compares to what I saw Saturday, however.
Me, my brother and a friend went to Syracuse and the Carrier Dome to watch three New York State championship games. We always go (unless I’m covering one of them, but even then we still usually stay and watch other games), and found our little corner spot in the stands.
Now, you have to realize that they cut off the whole top half of the Dome for these games. They also cut off the end zones, so just the sideline stands on the lower level are open. I’ve never seen either side full (although I’ve seen crowds that spread out wide and upwards of 3,000-4,000 people).
However, this weekend one team really stood out.
About 25 miles away from Syracuse is Auburn, a school which had never won a state title in football. A team that wasn’t even originally in the playoffs, but got in when a team got disqualified for having an illegal player for like three of their games. And, a team that had one hell of a following.
It’s one hell of a feel-good story, too. Team has a good year, gets into the playoffs late, wins the section to get to states, then wins two straight to reach the state finals. And on the other side? Defending champion Monroe-Woodbury – a team which had won 24 straight.
As the game got closer to starting, this Auburn team had quite a following building. Eventually, the Dome had to allow the end zones to open. At game’s start, there was about 8,000 fans yelling for Auburn. (EDIT: I just read that there was an estimated 15,000 in the Dome for that game. I don’t buy it as M-W didn’t have 7,000 fans there. I’d say a total of maybe 10,000 were there — tops).
If you’ve ever been to the Carrier Dome, or a building like it, you’ll know it can get awful loud. And it was. It quieted down when M-W scored on the game’s opening kickoff, but didn’t last long.
And I suppose you’re wondering what happened. Why even ask? Auburn wins in OT, 27-26. M-W had the ball first, scored, kick goes wide left. Auburn scores on first play, kick goes wide left — penalty for roughing the kicker. Kick good, crowd goes nuts.
When that second one went through, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard such a loud ovation. It was an atmosphere I’ve never experienced at a high school game and can’t imagine I will ever experience that again. It was amazing and one to remember.
Oh, and it was probably the finest game I’ve seen this season.