Lights to illuminate Viking Bowl |

Lights to illuminate Viking Bowl

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Across the United States the allure of the bright lights has been irresistible for football fans on Friday nights. They galvanize small communities and give townspeople a common ground to root on teenagers.

That part of American culture has forever been missing from South Lake Tahoe. The South Tahoe High Vikings have always played on Saturday afternoons in Viking Bowl, putting the local football team in an awkward position of having to compete with youth sports, community events and college football.

South Tahoe High, however, has started the process of moving toward purchasing permanent field lights for Viking Bowl. On Friday night, Sept. 10, Viking Bowl will be illuminated for the first time when portable lights are trucked in for South Tahoe’s 7 p.m. game against Lowry.

“We’ll give it one shot at the beginning to see if our community responds and comes out to see Friday night football at South Tahoe for the first time in the history of the school,” said STHS Athletic Director Don Borges. “I’d love to have the stands filled. We’re looking forward to not only the game but the excitement level of the community.”

South Tahoe second-year football coach Kevin Hennessee approached the school’s administration about putting in lights, and he’s not the first coach who has suggested the idea.

“It would be a great way to get some energy going,” Hennessee said. “Friday nights is where it’s at. Saturday is beautiful here, but I think in this community Friday night is something this town needs. It will give the kids some place to go, the little kids someplace to go. Saturday is too busy with other activities.”

South Tahoe, Truckee and Wooster are the only area high schools that don’t have field lights and traditionally play their home games on Saturday afternoons. Whittell High School in Zephyr Cove was on that list until putting in field lights just prior to the 2008 season.

While there is little competition on Saturday afternoons with other high school games, there is major college football on TV that obviously keeps some football fans away from Viking Bowl.

“Playing on Friday night is what it’s all about,” Borges said. “The colleges play on Saturdays and the pros on Sundays. UCLA, Penn State, Ohio State, Florida State and Florida … a lot of people out there like college teams.

“When we play on Saturday, a coach might have an opportunity to get another day of preparation but so does the other team.”

The temporary field lights will be rented from Ahern Rentals in South Lake Tahoe. Eight floodlights extending 30 feet will be erected outside the fencing surrounding Viking Bowl.

The $1,000 rental cost is being covered by the school’s booster club.

“The lights can be adjusted up, so there will be plenty of light for punts and stuff, which was our concern,” Borges said.

This won’t be Hennessee’s first push to bring field lights to a high school. When he coached at Alameda in the Bay Area, he helped usher in field lights for the first time.

“It builds a lot of spirit on Fridays. Nothing but positives that can come out of this,” Hennessee said. “You could tell the difference by the second year. It was the place where everybody came and brought their kids.”

Friday night will serve as a trial run with the possibility that permanent lights will be in place for next season. Borges said that the lights would be purchased through fundraising efforts.

“We have to get them there first and see what it’s all about,” Borges said.

The school’s soccer programs would also play under the lights if they become permanent, Borges said. The soccer teams currently play at the Community Youth Sports Complex at South Tahoe Middle School – where lights could eventually be added, too.

To make a contribution to bringing field lights to South Tahoe High, make a check out to Lake Tahoe Unified School District and write “for football lights” next to memo line on the check.

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