Friday Night Fanatics
Updated: Oct 26
By Emma Parsons
“Friday Night Lights” has promoted a sense of school spirit and comradery for many years. Students and staff wait all week for the seven o’clock game kick-off, wearing their most festive of themed outfits. What is it to our Mishawaka students that make these game days so special? Is it the atmosphere? The roaring student section? Or is it the game itself? These are the questions many have asked themselves every time they have walked up those crowded bleachers, and today Mishawaka students and coaches have decided to share their experiences to convey a broader perspective on our Friday night fanatics.
Kyle Shaw, Mishawaka’s fourteen year defensive line coach, spoke on how special it is to celebrate the team wins with each and every one of the players,“...Being able to share winning games with the guys I am around like 24/7 is special.” He also spoke of the importance of our student section as they contribute to the sporting event in its entirety, “I think our student section is proud to be a part of our games. It shows pride in our community that they even show up and support us.”
A similar perspective was shared by Mike Buchmann, Mishawaka’s 21 year offensive line coach. He spoke very highly of the crowd and all individuals on and off the field as a key part of the positive Friday night atmosphere, “There is a social aspect to the games that you can only find in the stands. It takes kid fans, adult fans, the band, teachers, administrators, football coaches and players, concession stand workers, ticket takers, band members, and directors to make the 'atmosphere’ happen.”
The love for these games is very clearly shown by MHS’s fantastic coaches. They accredit the positive atmosphere to not only our stellar players, but all our workers and fans as well. Students are essential to the explosive atmosphere. Mishawaka High School junior, Gabby Burris, shared that she attends most FNL games within reasonable distance from home field. Burris acknowledged the sense of unity that football games provide to the student body. She said,“I definitely think the crowd shows a sense of community. It is a time when we [MHS students] all put aside differences and cheer on the team. We are all dressed uniformly by theme and it is a time when we can all talk to one another.” Burris also added, “The most important part of football games to me is the atmosphere. My friends and I all go in a group, dress with the theme, do some chants, and go to dinner afterwards. It is a great experience all around.”
Briella Buchmann, another MHS junior who is also a three-year cheerleader and marching band member, said, “The school really comes together during football games, people who don’t usually get along start making unexpected friends. It’s a great time all around, and Friday nights wouldn’t be the same without our student section.”
Briella also has a very personal connection with these Friday night games; one that practically started before she was born. Briella very literally grew up on the field, surrounded by stadium lights and the hustle and bustle of high energy games she spent her formative years. She spoke about her experience,
“I have grown up attending football games, I even think there are pictures of me as a baby in the stands at Steele Stadium. Being the daughter of a football coach, football season has been a huge part of my life. Briella continued, “Once high school started, it became an even bigger part of my life in the form of marching band and cheerleading. My mom also runs the concession stand at our home stadium so I help out with that when I can.”
“Overall, football season is so important to my family. We like to joke that we're at the stadium more than we're home in the fall. The familial aspect is just one part, there's no better way to describe it than no one does FNL like Mishawaka,” Briella said.
She elaborated more on the specific connection she has with her dad and their own unique football Friday traditions as well,“The most special part of football games to me goes back to my dad. My dad and I have various special traditions we do on game days, including riding to school together and listening to a specific playlist we made for the year. “As you can imagine, family time is really hard to get during football season, so our little bonding moments before, during, and after games have become very important to me,” Briella said.
One does not need a family connection to treasure these Friday nights and make core memories though. To our football players, like Junior Trey Thomas, being on the field is one of the most treasured parts of their high school experience. Thomas explained what makes FNL so special, “...because I get to be with my best friends playing the game I love.” He also acknowledged the inclusivity and school spirit presented during these games, in a statement similar to Burris and Briella.
“The most special part is the way it brings the whole town together. Almost everyone on a Friday night is at steele stadium. Everyone also has a part in the game. The students in the student section, the students in the band, the students that cheer, and of course the football players. It makes everyone feel like they have a part.” Thomas offered these words of advice to the fans,
“Bring everyone you can to the game and be loud!”
While there may be some rebuilding to do after years of poor game attendance correlated with Covid-19 and virtual learning, these games are reaching a point of normalcy once again.