Gregori High’s new football stadium gives Modesto teams flexibility

jcortez@modbee.comAugust 13, 2013 

— High school football is meant to be played on Friday nights.

Unless, of course, you play in the city of Modesto, where most schools don’t have a football stadium of their own. That’s forced the Modesto Metro Conference to schedule one game on Thursday nights to alleviate the Friday glut.

But thanks to the opening of Gregori High School’s Don Lanphear Stadium (named after the longtime Davis High coach), things are about to change.

“Having games on Friday nights for league, and not having the Thursday game, is going to be huge,” said first-year Johansen coach Grant Genasci, whose Vikings — along with Downey and Gregori — have their own stadium. “I think the coaches are just as excited about it as the kids.”

Genasci points out that on Thursdays, the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity have to share the field. That often means a late start, and finish, for the varsity game.

“There’s such low attendance for Thursday games because a lot of kids can’t be out that late on a school night,” said Genasci.

With games concluding at 11 p.m. — and face it, kids don’t get home from the stadium and go straight to bed — it can create low attendance in the classroom come Friday morning. And that affects schools in the pocketbook.

“I don’t have any hard data on that, but that’s always been what people say,” said Davis High principal Mike Rich. “The less kids we have in the classroom, the less reimbursement we receive from the state.

“But the bigger issue is education. If we have kids missing school on Fridays, they’re missing 20 percent of their week.”

Davis won’t have to worry much about that this year since the Spartans will play all their games on Friday nights. MMC schools still must play some nonleague games on Thursdays.

“It’s going to feel like we have a real home field this year,” said Gregori offensive coordinator Marcus Whitten. “Every day felt like an away game. That’s going to be a huge plus for us.”

Another plus is less wear and tear on the fields.

Downey switched to FieldTurf a few years ago, but Johansen’s Dan Gonsalves Stadium probably won’t look like the Sahara come October.

“Once, when I was coaching JV, we had a player go down in the middle of the field,” said Plaa. “And he breathed in all this dust and dry grass and immediately got a nosebleed from it.”

A nosebleed — not from the tackle, but from the field conditions.

“It’s definitely going to help with player safety,” said Genasci. “With all that mud in the middle of the field, if a kid slips and gets hurt ...”

More than anything, though, there’s just not the same buzz surrounding football on Thursdays as there is 24 hours later. Folks clear Friday nights on their calendars weeks in advance during football season. Thursdays tend to get lost in the shuffle.

“That Friday Night Lights experience ...” said Plaa. “Nothing beats it.”

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