Bouncy houses and a sea of black and maroon filled the parking lot of Wes-Del High School during Warrior football’s season kickoff Friday night.. But this game was different from any other home opener.
It was the first time the Warriors would play on their brand new turf field.
However, when Wes-Del announced last year that a new football field could be coming, there was some doubt about the proposal. To make sure the idea became reality, multiple players attended a school board meeting to make their voices heard.
Last week was the first time that some of those players were able to practice on the very field they figuratively and literally stood up for.
“Our minds were blown,” junior Grayson Mealy said. “We were just amazed at how nice it was and how much nicer it was than what we had previously.”
On Friday night, Mealy and other players finally got to compete at their new home with the bleachers filled with Warrior fans.
“The stands were packed,” Wes-Del head coach Matt Nuckols said. “I haven't seen a home crowd like that [in the two seasons that] I've been here.”
When it came time for kickoff, extra chairs had to be brought in for fans to watch.
“It was awesome,” senior Trey Adams said. “Our fans and our friends are great. I love having them there for home games, and the energy was different.”
It didn’t take long for the Warriors to get the crowd on their feet. Wes-Del came out on fire, scoring on its first drive of the game. But the script flipped in the second half, as the Warriors didn’t score again, falling to Tri-Central 26-6.
One factor that hurt the Warriors was the injury bug, particularly when Adams was forced to leave the game during the second half.
“[Adams is] one of our best athletes and best playmakers,” Nuckols said. “That just made us a little bit one-dimensional.”
Despite the key injury, the Warriors did not lose faith as they reunited to discuss what needed to change in an early morning film session the next day. With many young players in the program, Nuckols said these sessions are crucial for improvement.
[We’re] trying to get them to see and believe that it's not an ability thing right now,” Nuckols said. “It's making sure that these little things are happening all the time because when they do happen, there's some dang good stuff out there.”
But to Nuckols and the players, the future of Wes-Del football is just around the corner. Before the game, the players entered their new stadium when they ran through a tunnel of [at least] 70 elementary and middle school football players.
“Seeing young guys like that buy into what we're trying to do at Wes-Del, it just gives us some more energy to get that going,” Mealy said. “[We want] to keep the program going throughout the younger generation.”
With the new field comes higher expectations. Next week, the Warriors will try and record their first win on new ground as they face Greenwood Christian.
Nuckols believes the Warriors will be in a better mindset with the pressure of the first home game absent.
“We're focusing on just us improving and doing the right thing, regardless of what that outcome is gonna be. And if we do the right thing and we work hard, then that outcome is going to be a positive one for us.”
Contact Zach Carter with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X@ZachCarter85.