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Let there be lights

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor
Steve Yingling / Tahoe Daily Tribune South Tahoe High players and coach Kevin Hennessee meet at midfield on Thursday night as portable lights are tested for Friday's history-making night game at Viking Bowl.
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South Tahoe High will be brighter than ever tonight when the school plays host to its first home game under the lights at Viking Bowl.

Portable lights, which were rented locally for $1,000, were trucked in Thursday night, giving the Vikings an opportunity to hold a team meeting under them in preparation for today’s 7 p.m. game with the Lowry Buckaroos.

Players hooted and hollered as six of the lights were brought in from Ahern Rentals in South Lake Tahoe. Some even sang a few verses of popular songs, including “Blinded by the Lights.” Two more banks of lights are expected to arrive early today from Elko.

Tonight’s night game will serve as an experiment to see if school should install permanent field lights.

“This means everything,” said STHS senior lineman Roger Ripoli. “I’m expecting huge support from fan bases. Myself and two other senior classmates have spent every summer working so hard for the football season. To be part of the change and to be part of the beginning of football at Tahoe high school again, it’s great.”

South Tahoe has a history of smaller crowds for its Saturday afternoon home games. Turnouts from the student body has been particularly small, but that could very well change with the night setting.

“Some of them have work. It’s too early for them. They don’t get the excitement out of the day game that they get out of the night game,” Ripoli said.

Scott Shehadi, a former STHS football player and now the school’s freshman coach, is excited to see the night game realized. He believes his teams would have had an additional edge under the lights during his playing days.

“We had an altitude edge and now you throw in a true home-field advantage with the crowd noise and excitement, it might have been a little more different,” he said.

From what he’s hearing, the student body is really rallying around the game.

“We could see 600 kids here,” Shehadi said. “A high percentage of the kids in the school are talking about coming to the game, which normally doesn’t happen. The only time you get those kinds of crowds is homecoming, and now we might get it for a Friday night game.”

Kevin Hennessee helped athletic director Don Borges organize the night game in only his second season at the helm of the Vikings.

“This has been a good week of practice coming after a tough loss, and the kids are excited about playing under the lights,” Hennessee said. “Everybody has been supportive.”

South Tahoe (1-1) won’t underestimate the Buckaroos. Lowry has scored 108 points in one-sided victories against Battle Mountain and Wooster.

The high-powered Lowry offense is led by junior running back Jace Billingsley, who rushed for 248 yards and four touchdowns in the opener against Battle Mountain and 148 more yards vs. Wooster last week. In the 47-21 win against Wooster, Billingsley had three touchdowns, including a 99-yard kickoff return.

“They are a really good team,” said Hennessee comparing the Buckaroos in ability to Fallon.

Hennessee proudly watched his team make a character check against Fallon last Friday, falling behind 20-0 in the first quarter but rallying to 37-28 at one point in a 56-34 defeat.

“This is a close-knit group of kids that aren’t going to quit,” Hennessee said. “They really believe that it’s their time, and I think they showed that in the second half, and even in the first half. They didn’t stop playing for anything.”

Lineman Wade Norberg, who missed last week’s road game at Fallon, is listed day to day with an unspecified injury. South Tahoe will suit up 21 or 22 players against Lowry.


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