It was like a first kiss.
But with cleats, shoulder pads and several hundred people watching.
Weeks from now, years from now, Hough High's 25-6 victory Friday night against Rocky River won't be remembered for how it was played but for how it felt.
On a late August evening that was like a warm night at the beach, Charlotte's two newest high schools played football for the first time.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Until Wednesday, neither school had held a class, but by Friday night, it was football season for the first time. Everything was new.
Rocky River's brown and orange uniforms. Hough's white jerseys and gray pants. The stadium was new. The signs were new. Even the cheers were new for the Ravens and the Huskies.
The last time two new high schools did what Hough and Rocky River did Friday night was 44 years ago, when Independence and Olympic faced each other in the first game for both schools.
Joe White, now a school board member, coached Olympic in 1966, and he was walking the sideline Friday at Rocky River as day faded to night. Remembering that first night all those years ago, White smiled.
It was a night for smiles and nerves. No one knew quite where to sit because no one had been there before. During pregame drills, a Rocky River back running against invisible defenders stumbled over the quarterback's feet on a handoff then stumbled over his own feet.
Opening night jitters.
Hough and Rocky River might grow into rivals, but they came into Friday night as kindred spirits. Both are the new home to nearly 1,500 students apiece. Rocky River's come primarily from Independence and Butler, and Hough's come mainly from North Mecklenburg and Hopewell.
Neither school has a senior class, which means both football teams are built largely with sophomores and juniors. They both lack size, experience and a homecoming game.
No one on the Rocky River roster had played on Friday night before. And no one who played Friday night will forget it.
In the minutes before kickoff, Rocky River coach Jason Fowler gathered his team around him in the locker room inside the brick building beyond one end zone. It's a new building, but it already had the sticky, sweaty smell of a used locker room, like rose petals to a football coach.
"Take a knee, fellas! Take a knee!" an assistant coach barked while Fowler paced in front of his team. With everyone on a knee and quiet, Fowler gave his first pregame pep talk to the Ravens' first team.
"We cracked this open on June16 on a dirt field on Albemarle Road with no equipment, but we got through it," Fowler said. "Why? One single purpose. To get to August, 27.
"Well, you know what? It's here. That was the hard part. This is the fun part."
Fowler looked around the room. He talked about making things happen, not waiting for them to happen. Then he went for the heart.
"When you're 85 years old and Rocky River High is still standing, you're going to bring your grandchildren by here," Fowler said. "You're going to say, 'I was part of that. I was part of that first class, that first team that beat Hough High'."
Fowler got the outcome wrong.