Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Day Dreaming Playing High School Games on Saturday Afternoons Has Become a Real Rarity

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Day Dreaming Playing High School Games on Saturday Afternoons Has Become a Real Rarity

Article excerpt

Western Beaver High School athletic director Marc Rose has a simple reason why the school still plays home football games on Saturday afternoons.

"It's a tradition," Rose said.

But around the WPIAL, it's a dying tradition.

Saturday afternoon high school football games in the WPIAL are like telephone booths. You can't find many of them any more.

Just about everywhere you turn in the WPIAL on Friday nights, they are turning on lights for games. There are 124 teams playing WPIAL football and only four (3.2 percent) play Saturday afternoon home games at their own stadiums. They are Western Beaver, Riverview, Summit Academy and Wilkinsburg.

Bishop Canevin doesn't have its own field and uses Keystone Oaks' Dormont Stadium, but the Crusaders usually play Saturday night games.

It wasn't always this bright around the WPIAL on Friday nights. Many stadiums were dark on Friday nights. Go back three decades and more than three dozen WPIAL teams were having Saturday afternoon matinees on football fields.

Thirty years ago, almost one-third of WPIAL teams did not have stadium lights and played on Saturday afternoons. In 1984, there were 132 teams in WPIAL football and 39 (just shy of 30 percent) were playing Saturday afternoon games. Twenty-five years ago, 28 teams were still playing on Saturdays.

Saturday afternoon games weren't just a small-school thing, either. Thirty years ago, North Allegheny, Fox Chapel, Seneca Valley, Penn-Trafford, Hampton, Knoch, Franklin Regional and Hopewell were playing on Saturdays. They are all in Class AAAA or AAA now.

But more and more communities wanted to have "light-up nights" on fall Fridays. More coaches, players, fans and community members wanted that Friday-night feeling. More schools paid for lights.

One of the advantages with lights was schools could have more games and practices at their stadiums, plus accommodate other sports such as soccer.

So, Saturday afternoon football died slowly. South Side Beaver always played on Saturdays until the school installed permanent lights at Richard Ashcroft Stadium in Hookstown last year.

"As a coach, there were definitely some advantages to playing Saturday afternoons because the other teams weren't used to it. I kind of miss that," said South Side Beaver coach Glenn McDougal, who has coached for 13 years in two different stints at the school. "To be honest, you have more of the student body at Friday night games. The kids like it and the community likes it. ... I don't think I would trade playing Friday nights."

But some involved with those teams still playing on Saturday afternoons cherish being part of a small fraternity. Jason Cappa is in his first year as Riverview's coach, but he played at the school and was an assistant at the school for a number of years.

"Personally, I love the Saturday games," said Cappa. …

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