Knights take care of business in preparing for a final home game

Knights take care of business in preparing for a final home game

Image Credit: Dave Mast

On Nov. 4 the West Holmes Knights hosted their final home game of the year, a playoff game against St. Mary’s Memorial, a game that turned into a 56-21 victory.

However, before the game came down to executing plays, the school’s volunteers and staff had to prepare all of the little things that accompany the action on the field.

All of that preparation takes place with little to no fanfare, during the calm before the storm.

In the Knights Stadium concession stand, Rickey Felton rolled in around 9 a.m. with supplies for the evening’s contest. Not long after that, his wife Terri arrived to begin cleaning, preparing the food and making sure everything was in place.

The couple has been doing this for every home game, and while it might seem somewhat insignificant, having two playoff home games means bringing in upward of $20,000 at the concession stands.

From getting meats for hot dogs, Trail bologna, sloppy joes, creamed chicken and pizza to making sure all of the shelves and drinks are well stocked, the athletic booster club has plenty of work to do in preparing for the chaos that kicks off at 7 p.m.

“Rickey’s the heart and soul of it,” Terri Felton said. “There’s such an awesome atmosphere during playoff football, and the concessions add to the aura.”

Rickey Felton said the Feltons are simply doing their part to make game day as enjoyable as possible, and all of the work they do is matched by the many other volunteers who help get things ready.

“It’s a lot of work to take inventory throughout the week, and it is time-consuming, but it’s worth it because in the end it’s all for the kids,” Rickey Felton said.

WHHS band instructor Brian Dodd said every additional playoff game is a bonus opportunity for his kids to showcase their talents on the field, and he said playoff football is always special.

During the afternoon before the big game, West Holmes school maintenance staff members were busy lining the field, making it look sharp for the contest later that night.

WHHS Athletic Booster Club member Matt Sprang was busy himself, spray painting the Knights logo at midfield, a ritual that takes 90 minutes to two hours to complete.

“It helps make the field look awesome for the players and the fans,” Sprang said as he carefully placed red paint inside the white lines of the Knights’ logo. “All of this is making it special for our team.”

He said between the WHHS staff, athletic booster members, volunteers and students, it is a true team effort to get everything ready. That includes selling programs, apparel and 50/50 tickets and staffing the concession stand.

“It’s impressive to see all of the pieces come together to get everything ready for game day,” Sprang said. “What’s been really good for us the past couple of years was having the two extra home games and seeing people come together to make it nice.”

That included a church group that came in to do some work at the stadium earlier this season.

“Our community really loves supporting our kids and giving them everything they deserve, and it means so much more to get kids involved with the volunteering program,” Sprang said. “We’re all doing this for school pride, and we can never have enough of that.”

Then there are the coaches, who work relentlessly before the players hit the field. For head coach Zach Gardner, that means a day doing his job in the classroom at school.

He said the Friday schedule is meant to remain similar to every other day, believing normal routine helps everyone stay calm.

A stop late in the day to chat with his wife Alison, who works just down the hall, is a regular ritual for Gardner.

“When the last school bell rings, I always stop to see her, which is always special,” Gardner said. “All of our coaches’ wives understand everything we go through, and they are so supportive. That’s so special.”

Then he went on to the fieldhouse, where he eats the same meal before every game. He’ll shuffle through his song playlist, looking for inspiration, then roam the quiet field, where he takes in the serenity before the crash of pads and helmets.

“When you put as much work into this as we do, you want to savor it and remember why we are here, and that’s to help our young people grow,” Gardner said. “I’m always grateful to have that moment to take it all in before anyone is out there.”

Then it’s back to the locker room, where the team gathers, talks strategy and goes through a walk-through on the field at 5 p.m.

Then it’s all about building that razor-sharp focus every team needs to be successful.

From an athletic director’s perspective, having volunteers making plays, so to speak, adds up to a smooth operation.

“There’s a lot of little details that take place before a game,” West Holmes AD Adam Brately said. “There’s a lot of workers we can count on to run the scoreboard, operate the chains on the sideline, run the concession stand and a lot more. All of those little details add up to a lot to do.”

Gardner said he, his staff and the players can never express enough gratitude for the people who go behind the scenes to make game night special.

“It’s things people may never think about, but it is a total community effort that we truly appreciate,” Gardner said.

For the calm before the storm, there certainly is a great deal of activity taking place behind the scenes to set the stage for game night.