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Homecoming one of high school’s special experiences

Published: Friday, October 18, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 1:00 p.m.

Part of what makes high school football fun is homecoming. It is much more than a game. It is (to date myself), a happening. It is all the Spirit Week activities leading up to the game. It is the rivalry between the classes. It is the floats. It is the selection of a Homecoming Queen and her court. It is the suspense waiting to see which candidate has the box with the white rose. It is the extra-long halftime. It is the alumni showing up to remember. It is the students milling around, some without a clue as to what is happening on the field. It is the former football players standing three-deep along the sidelines recalling Friday night glory and vainly wishing for just one more game to play. It is the homecoming dance. It is school pride.

For coaching staffs, it is a blessing and a curse.

Coaches have little difficulty getting players up for the game. They know they are being scrutinized by those who have gone before and they know their classmates are counting on them to win.

On the other side of the coin, all the homecoming hoopla can be a distraction. Many of the players are leaders off the field as well as on and have many homecoming duties and responsibilities off the field. At last week’s Tomales homecoming, about half the team served as escorts for the various queen candidates. It makes it tough to make halftime adjustments or give inspiring pep talks. Over the years, Petaluma High has had girl kickers who were actually queen candidates, standing prettily with their escorts in full pads — sans helmets. There is a lot going on besides football, and it can be a distraction.

The opponent for the homecoming game can make a difference. The truth is that some teams like to schedule opponents they believe they have a pretty good chance of beating, wanting to give the alumni something to cheer about. Others prefer a tough opponent, looking for a good game, regardless of outcome. Some simply plan for the best time in the school year, and take whatever opponent is on the schedule. The latter is pretty much what the local teams do. This year, Petaluma and St. Vincent ended up with relatively easy opponents, while Casa Grande and Tomales take on some heavyweights.

Casa Grande has one of its toughest opponents of the year in a huge North Bay League game when it hosts defending NBL champion Rancho Cotate Friday night. That game doesn’t need all the trappings of homecoming to be big and exciting. Tomales’ opponent last week was California School for the Deaf. The Braves won, 30-20, but CSD is no lightweight. The Eagles shared the North Central II/Bay Football League championship with St. Vincent last season, and they are always talented and well coached. It was the same this year, but Tomales, to its credit, outplayed the visitors, making for a happy homecoming.

Petaluma’s opponent Friday night will be Elsie Allen. I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict a Trojan victory. I saw Elsie Allen play at Tomales earlier this year, and there was a running clock before the end of the third quarter, with Tomales winning, 52-6. The Trojans didn’t plan it that way, but they did get a favorable homecoming draw.

Then there is St. Vincent. The Mustangs flat got cheated out of homecoming this year. Their scheduled opponent, Livermore Valley Prep, cancelled out of last week’s game. The students went ahead with Spirit Week, but had no football game to climax the week. To complicate the situation, St. Vincent’s next two games are both out of town — at Emery, really McClymond’s High in Oakland, Saturday and Tomales next week. They won’t get their homecoming game until Nov. 2 against Upper Lake.

But, whether homecoming is early, late, against a contender or a pretender, it is exiting, it is fun, it is special. It is what being in high school is all about.

(Contact John Jackson at johnie.jackson@arguscourier.com)

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