Football Fridays consist of more than just taking the field

Abby Miller | Staff Writer

Senior Offensive Lineman Jackson Norman high fives a student as the kids leave the Intermediate school on Friday. This tradition has continued through the program every year.

Mason Comet Football players remember Friday afternoons as a fourth grader; walking to the bus and talking to the larger than life players they looked up to. Now, the varsity athletes get a chance to return the favor.

The Comets go through a schedule each Friday after school, that begins with a team meeting in the Harvard Room to get everyone excited for the game.

After the meeting, the team partakes in a ‘walk and talk’, where the varsity athletes interact with and inspire youth football players. The afternoon concludes with a team dinner prior to gametime.  

Head Coach Brian Castner said this team dinner is where players share some of the wins in their personal lives from that day with their coaches and teammates, which acts as a vital time for the players to bond. 

“We’ll do, ‘why today was a great day’, so each unit has to have a player that represents that position group and they voice why today was a great day,” Castner said. “It could be, ‘I got a 98 on a Spanish test,’ or ‘My grandpa is coming into town and he’s coming to the game tonight’”.

During the walk and talk, the players walk over to Mason Intermediate, and high-five the young kids as their school gets out. This is a tradition that has gone on for many years in the football program, and is meaningful to everyone involved – young and old.  

Senior Safety Michael McCalmont said he remembers when he was in the younger kid’s shoes, excited to see the big varsity players each Friday at MI. McCalmont said he would look forward to watching them play later that night, which makes his experience with the youth players all the more special.

“I looked forward to it when I was little, to see all of them dressed up, and how they had a big game that night,” McCalmont said. “To see them in person and then be able to watch them on the field was like a dream because I know that I always dreamed of playing on Friday nights.”

Senior Wide Receiver Alec Dardis knows the camaraderie that develops from these moments between elementary kids and varsity athletes is truly special. He believes that it also allows the younger kids to have a connection to the high school and feel included and involved in the experience. 

Dardis said that knowing that they get to make an impact on the lives of young kids is just one piece that makes the walk and talk so special. 

“It gets our minds right before games on Friday, walking over and seeing the little kids and high fiving [them] and putting a smile on their face,” Dardis said. “Because we know that, at least the ones that play football, come to the games on Friday nights and look up to us and want to be like us when they’re older so it’s rewarding for us.” 

According to Senior Linebacker Jack Haglage, it’s a memorable experience and a key piece of the Friday activities. Haglage said he feels that meeting with the kids helps get them enthusiastic about what they could do in their future high school career, and gets them eager about becoming a part of the team. 

“It’s getting them excited for the game and for what they could do once they get to high school,” Haglage said. “It really makes it feel like a game day and it really gets us excited for that Friday night as well.” 

Castner believes the whole process that the team goes through before the game is a special one, and that each activity – whether it’s team dinner, position meetings, or the ‘walk and talk’ – serves a unique purpose. 

Castner said he hopes the tradition will make a lasting impression on these boys, not only as football players, but as human beings. 

“You want to try and make every experience here, within our football program and what we control, as rich as possible and no matter what the scoreboard says, win or loss, they know that the experience they had as a Mason football player was a very rich experience,” Castner said. “I think the day after school, the whole environment can become a routine, but it’s still filled with purpose. I think it’s still filled with some substance that these players grab from it, individually, and as a group.”

Photo by Henri Robbins.