“It was definitely something different, but yeah it was a very awesome experience having our first practice under the lights at the field.”
That was Drake Barnett’s take on the first-ever midnight madness event staged by the Galion High School football program. It was held last weekend at Unckrich Stadium.
Barnett, a senior for the Tigers this season, was one of 47 Galion players who hit the field at 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 1 to mark the beginning of the 2015 football campaign. Nearly 200 fans of the orange and blue turned out for what organizers hope will be the first installment of many midnight madness events for the football program.
“I’ve contemplated doing it, but a lot of times you’re starting on a Monday or Tuesday, and nobody’s gonna want to do that and keep the kids up,” said Tigers head coach Chris Hawkins. “Since it was kind of unique that we started on a Saturday, and most people have the weekend off, we just thought it was the perfect year to do it. I thought to kick it off under the Saturday morning lights and make it a community event, the kids would be pumped. And we’re hoping this will be a special year, so we really wanted to involve the community.”
Hawkins said when he first broached the idea with his team, the reaction was a bit lukewarm.
“I think, initially, they thought, ‘Oh man, we gotta stay up that late,’” he laughed. “At first we were just going to bring them in for a couple of hours and then bring them back (later on Saturday). But, as a coaching staff, we thought if we bring them back, that practice is going to be caca.
“So we decided to go from midnight to 2:45 a.m., then we’re done and have the rest of weekend off, and not come back until Monday,” he added. “When they heard that, they were pretty happy to have the weekend off. The kids are pumped, the community seems excited and I think the parents are as well.”
Senior quarterback Jacob Fryer said having the first practice under the lights was a nice change of pace from recent workouts.
“It was different, but definitely a lot better than in the heat,” he said.
Parents play key role
Christine Deibig, president of the Galion Football Parents Club, said the midnight madness event is one of numerous fundraising opportunities for the club. The group operated the concession stand and offered several games for fans to play. Deibig said club leadership is always looking for fundraising ideas.
“We’re really trying to work on doing some sustainable fundraising all year round so the football parents have money,” she said. “When we started the year, we were really depleted; we only had $11. That’s why we started the hog raffle and this kind of event to raise a little bit of money. We want to set the program up for the future.”
Deibig truly comes from a football family. She said as a child she spent every Friday night at Heise Park watching the Tigers with her parents, Gary and Evelyn Burnside. Her husband, John, was a member of the 1985 Tigers team that won the state championship and has been deeply involved with Galion Youth Football over the years. Son Zach is a senior on the 2015 squad.
“I married into it, that’s for sure,” laughed Deibig. “I went to school in Galion and remember being little and being dragged to football games on Friday night. The 1985 year, they would pull us out of school and go and wait in line. We’d be the first ones at the stadium. My parents were really happy when I ended up marrying a Galion football player. We’re very entrenched with Galion football.”
Gearing up for 2015
Hawkins said the Tigers have a positive attitude toward the upcoming season and like their chances for success.
“The potential’s there,” Hawkins said. “But at the same time, potential doesn’t win football games. The good Lord needs to keep us healthy. We have some very talented players on both sides of the ball, up front and in the skill positions, but we don’t have a lot of depth. So we gotta stay healthy.
“Our goals are high,” he added. “Our first goal is to win an MOAC Red Division championship, and our second goal is to make it to the playoffs, for the fourth year in a row. Our third goal — which we haven’t accomplished in the last three years — is to win a playoff game or two. We tell our kids, the higher the goals, the harder the work. We’ve put in the work this summer and we’ve got a lot of work still to do, but they have thus far laid the foundation.”
The Tigers varsity and junior varsity squads will hit the field Saturday for an intra-squad scrimmage and picnic at Heise Park. The scrimmage will begin at 11:30 a.m. followed by the picnic at 1 p.m. The picnic will be held at the Lions Pavilion located behind the Galion Community Center YMCA.
Galion will travel to Fredericktown on Aug. 12 for a scrimmage. It’s scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
The Tigers will play host to Centerburg and New London in a scrimmage on Aug. 15. It is also slated to start at 10 a.m.
Galion’s final preseason outing is a jamboree game Aug. 21 at Shelby. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
Andrew Carter can be reached at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048. Connect with him on Twitter @ACGalionSports.