, Gloucester, MA

October 12, 2012

Coaches weigh in on Friday vs. Saturday football games

By Conor Walsh Correspondent
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — It’s not something people around high school football give much thought to.

There’s not much a team can do about it. They’re at the mercy of the schedule.

But is there any difference between playing on Friday night or Saturday afternoon?

For Gloucester and Manchester Essex, the answer’s the same. They want to be under the lights.

“I like Friday night,” Gloucester coach Tony Zerilli said. “High school has always been Friday night as long as I can remember. On Friday nights kids prepared for it all day long. I think our kids have always been Friday night kids.”

Manchester Essex coach Mike Athanas echoed Zerilli.

“I like anything that is consistent,” Athanas said. “Playing on Friday night, the kids have a routine. They do their schoolwork, go home, get something to eat, then come back down and get ready to play. Anything that’s the same is good. Playing on different days can be tough to deal with.”

It’s no surprise the two local coaches favor Fridays. Those are their home games. With the tradition of Gloucester’s Newell Stadium and the atmosphere of Manchester Essex’s Hyland Field, it’s hard to argue with Zerilli and Athanas about their preference.

The renovation of Newell Stadium has forced the Fishermen and Hornets to share Hyland Field as their home field this season, causing some changes to the routine. The Fishermen have three Saturday home games this season.

But the love for the lights hasn’t changed.

The atmosphere, predictably, is generally better at a Friday night game. Fans, students and adults alike, tend to come out in force, and there’s something about a night game that seems to get people fired up.

Plus, the routine of school followed by football, as Athanas pointed out, helps the teams find a rhythm over the course of the season.

Even still, though, could Saturday be better?

One of the obvious concerns of a Saturday game is the kids on each team being, well, “kids” on Friday night, and the crowd tends to be more subdued on Saturdays.

But for some local schools, like Beverly, Saturday afternoon football is as much a staple of fall as Friday nights at Newell Stadium.

The extra day of preparation, recovery and rest can never hurt, either.

Could Saturdays be an advantage? Zerilli doesn’t think so.

“Saturday has a weird feel to it, sleeping in, getting up, trying to get ready,” Zerilli said. “If you go Friday night, you have all day to get your mind set right.”

For Manchester Essex, they’ve got another day thrown into the mix this weekend when the Hornets host Northeast on Sunday afternoon.

That gives them a long week of preparation. It also, however, leaves them with a short week heading into next weekend’s tilt with Hamilton Wenham.

Sunday breaks Athanas’ routine, and the Hornets’ coach doesn’t like that.

For some programs, Saturday’s the day.

The consensus around Cape Ann, though, is that it’s Friday night or bust.

“Can’t do too much extra in terms of hitting, you can put extra time in on X’s and O’s stuff,” Zerilli said of the extra time offered by a Saturday game. “But I’d give up the extra day to play Friday night. That extra day could help you put a few more stuff into your game plan, but as far as hitting, blocking and tackling at practice there isn’t much more you can do with that extra day.”