CARY — Any football fan whose passion for the sport includes attending high school games can understand the buzz throughout Cary Christians campus last week as the school prepared for its first on-campus night game.
"Theres just something magical about football when its played under the lights," said Dell Cook, Cary Christians fifth-year head coach and headmaster by day at the school..
The Knights (1-0) assured their inaugural home night game was memorable with a 28-27 win over Rocky Mount Academy (0-1) Friday in a Colonial Carolinas Conference eight-man football matchup.
Cary Christians Ben Hoover preserved the victory with a nine-yard sack on fourth down with 29 seconds to play, ending the Eagles threat at the Knights 35-yard line.
"We had a huge crowd," Hoover said. "A lot of dads cant come to afternoon games because of work. This is the most support weve had."
Cary Christian was familiar with Friday night football from playing road games, but that only heightened anticipation of the first home night game. Once construction began the The players knew theyd have a home night game this year, but they didnt know last weeks season opener would be under the lights until Cook informed them the Monday before the game that all systems were go.
"I pretty much got chills," said Cary Christian senior quarterback James Peterson of hearing the news. "I never thought Id get to experience that here. They put the lights up quick. Its pretty much a dream come true."
Peterson, who completed 14 of 20 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns, had a special appreciation for the event. with his background. He has attended Cary Christian games since his brother Daniel, a 2008 graduate, was one of the original players for an eight-man football program, which is now in its seventh year.
"I told my brother about the lights and he got mad," Peterson said. "He was jealous."
But it wasnt just the players enjoying the nighttime atmosphere. Roy and Beryl Bates, now in their 66th year of marriage, attend every Cary Christian game. They had their lawn chairs set up along the sidelines.
"I used to feel so sorry for the boys playing in the afternoon heat," said Beryl. "This is so much more pleasant."
Cook said the school first began considering night games four years ago. The lights are part of a construction project that includes a new field house sandwiched between the football fields west end zone and the baseball fields right field fence. The two-story field house, due for completion in another month, features locker rooms and a patio with concession stands overlooking the two fields.
In addition to funding, Cary Christian needed approval from the Town of Cary to put up the lights. There were two town hall meetings.
"We want to be good neighbors," Cook said. "We tried to be open and transparent. One concern was the lights would light up the whole neighborhood. The lights are specially designed to shine directly on the field. We also have traffic police and parking lot attendants to make sure everything goes smoothly."
Even Rocky Mount Academys veteran coach B.W. Holt felt rejuvenated under the Friday night lights. The former Starmount and Rocky Mount coach ended a three-year retirement to return to the sidelines for his 43rd season.
"Friday nights never get old," Holt said. "Its exciting to get out here and see what these kids can do."