KINGSTON — Nothing stirs the memories of nostalgia more than a hometown high school football game and they all came pouring back Friday night at Spartan Stadium, home of the Wyoming Valley West football team.
And the Spartans didn’t disappoint their fans, defeating the Knights of Scranton 24-13 to get their season off to a good start.
But with victory, sometimes, comes disappointment. And disappointment was in the air Friday night.
From its beginnings, the nine-town WVW school district has struggled with being merged into one school. As stated before, the first year of WVW was 1966-67, although there were three schools then — Plymouth Area (Plymouth, Larksville, Edwardsville); Forty Fort Area (Forty Fort, Swoyersville, Luzerne); and Kingston Area (Kingston, Courtdale, Pringle).
The 1967-68 school year brought about “the monster” — all students attending one school with one athletic team in all sports. The pre-season hype that summer leading up to the football season brought attention from local, state and national media. They talked about how this monster school would dominate, smashing every opponent in its path.
The first football game was at Spartan Stadium against Allentown Dieruff. The ‘monster” Spartans lost, 44-0. The monster was dead.
That first season was marginal at best — far below expectations. But what did we know? We believed the headlines. Talk about fake news.
Now some 51 years later, Spartan Stadium remains the home field for the “hometown” team. But after looking at Friday night’s crowd, I’m wondering if the game was even announced in the schools. I mean, the crowd was less than expected — less than it could have been, or should have been.
I realize this was the first game of the season and sometimes fans don’t come out until they become aware that their team is actually pretty good and can win a title, whether it be a conference championship, or a state title. Winning does breed interest and support.
But that’s not the way it should be.
I watched the Spartan team play a pretty good game. The coach said he had a lot of young players, several playing in their first varsity action. And there was a lot of talent on that field. Valley West appears to be a team that can, as the season progresses, get better and better. The Spartans deserve their fans, both fellow students, along with parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, alumni and more, to come out and cheer, cheer for the home team.
The seemingly unanswerable question of 50-plus years is why don’t they come out? Why weren’t they there Friday night? It was a perfect night to watch a football game. The weather was perfect, although I would prefer a bit of fall nip in the air to make for a crisp evening. I noticed several fans left at halftime and others were walking out at the end of the third quarter. Not only weren’t there a lot of fans at the game, many of them weren’t real football fans. They really didn’t care what the score was.
Football fans, or sports fans in general, tend to be a bit more tenacious than those attending Friday night’s game. I remember the days when fans would yell at the referees and scream and yell for their hometown players. I didn’t see or hear much of that Friday night.
And the band played on. Ah yes, the band. The Spartan band, which appeared to have two football players dressed in uniform among its ranks, was splendid. They played and marched and performed terrifically. It seemed there were more members of the band than in past years. That’s a good thing. We need more band members in all high school bands.
And the cheerleaders cheered. The guy shot off the Spartan cannon when the team scored, filling the air with smelly smoke. The players played well and supported each other.
All the components were there for a Friday night home game. But it was a far cry from those glory days of yesteryear when fans filled stadiums, despite bad weather, to cheer for their team.
The Spartans are the home team of the West Side. They represent all those great teams of the past from all those nine towns. These kids have known only Valley West as their school and they have worn only burgundy and gold as their team colors. They are Spartans true and true.
They deserve the support of their fans.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]