Dickinson Field place to be Friday night

From parents to coaches to players, Red Devil community enjoys games under the lights

Series: Quintessential Hinsdale | Story 10

Brian Griffin remembers playing games under the lights on Dickinson Field at Hinsdale Central when he was on the team.

"I still get the same feeling that I got as a player waiting to walk from the school out to stadium," said Griffin, who played at Central from 1999-2003 and is now head coach of the varsity team. "It just fills you with a sense of pride and a sense of community and just being part of something which is cool to experience on both ends of the spectrum."

The fact that the team plays only nine regular season games - four of which are at home this year - creates a unique dynamic, said Craig Boggs, Hinsdale Central Football Club president.

"Unlike baseball or basketball, they only play a few games," he said. "Those games, there is so much energy and intensity, because they have been working so hard and they only get to do it nine times instead of 30 times.

"It's pretty intense," he added. "The energy of the boys rubs off on everyone."

The players aren't the only ones on the field Friday nights. Cheerleaders, pommers and band members perform, and different student groups work in the concession stand.

"There are hundreds of kids that have different roles and do different things Friday that make it a special place and environment to be a part of," Griffin said.

And then there are the fans - students and adults - who fill the bleachers to cheer on the team.

"You see all kinds of people in town, even if they don't have kids on the team," Boggs said.

"When there's a community feel and a whole school feel, it definitely makes you feel special and makes you appreciate what you are part of," Griffin said.

The student section can be particularly rowdy at home games, with fans as pumped as the players on the field. The 2021 season brought out a huge crowd after the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the fall 2020 season (the team played a shortened schedule in the spring of 2021).

"I just love being able to make people smile and make people excited about football," senior Noah Block told The Hinsdalean in September 2021. "Nothing beats a whole crowd saying something at once, chirping at another team. It's honestly really exhilarating to start a chant and get a whole crowd behind a team."

Boggs said he loves hearing the students' cheers, as long as they aren't too mean-spirited.

"It makes an experience for the crowd. The kids enjoy being part of the crowd as much as they enjoy watching the game sometimes. It impacts the players. That energy goes both directions, for sure," he said.

Friday night contests provide a great experience for adults to enjoy some pre-game festivities as well. Boggs and the football club are planning a football alumni tailgate party before the homecoming game Sept. 22.

Norm Chimenti, who played for the legendary Harvey Dickinson in the 1950s, said only two teams in the conference at that time - Maine Township (now Maine East) and Arlington

Heights - had lights.

"I don't remember discussing how neat it would be to have lights in Hinsdale," he said. "We enjoyed the adventure of playing one game under the lights each year. Also we were really fond of playing the Saturday afternoon game at home.

"Back then we'd draw big crowds, because there weren't Saturday afternoon competing things to do," he added. "The thing to do back then on a Saturday afternoon was to go to Hinsdale football."

Times certainly have changed. And while previous schedules have included at least one Saturday afternoon game, this is the first year every regular season contest on is a Friday night. Griffin has no complaints.

"There's just a different vibe," he said. "When it's dark and the only thing that's lit up is the field, it makes you feel you're in the spotlight. It just exaggerates the importance and makes it feel more important to be under the lights and feel like you're the only thing going on.

"It elicits a pretty incredible feeling."

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean