No false starts for the football team

by Grace Grabowski, Sports Reporter
photo by Olivia Wong

High school football games across the country are oftentimes schoolwide, or even townwide events: stands are packed full, cheerleaders on the sidelines, a band playing in the stands and everyone cheering as loud as they can in support of their school’s team. Movies and shows like “Friday Night Lights” or “All American” celebrate this energy and spirit that many high schools have at their football games.

Despite the sport’s nationwide popularity as a symbol of high school, enthusiasm for football hasn’t always been reflected at South, boys football head coach Ted Dalicandro said. He said that during his 16 years coaching at South, the attendance at home football games has been lower than that of other teams in the Dual County League (DCL). 

“What’s happened in the past is we’ve gone to away games when there’s Friday night games and [the players] see the excitement,” he said. “[If] you go to anybody in our league, the energy, the excitement [and] the community build-up is so great.”

Dalicandro said that South’s notable low attendance could be attributed to the way that football is viewed in the community.

“The biggest thing lacking here at Newton South is that sports are looked at as a subculture. It’s not really part of the fabric of the school,” he said. “That’s too bad because almost every other high school has that, and that’s a disadvantage for our athletes.”

On top of South’s general lack of enthusiasm for sports, football, in particular, has a reputation for fostering a dangerous nature that can cause injuries, especially concussions. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, high school football players experience more concussions than many other contact sports. However, Dalicandro said that the risk of injury does not affect the community aspect of his team.

“Football is a small group of individuals who know the risk, just like the risk of anything else, and they’re willing to put that risk aside,” he said. “I always say, courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s acknowledging your fear and doing it anyway.”

Junior quarterback Everson Quissanga said that the team is aware and ready to face any consequences that may come as a result of playing football.

“We all just want to work, and we know that the injuries come with it,” Quissanga said. “We stay prepared and stay ready.”

This year, the future of the football team is looking bright. Since the finalized addition of the field lights, a 15-year undertaking, there has been a rise in student attendance at the additional Friday night football games.

Captain senior Roberto Figuereo said that the new spectators bring an irreplaceable energy to the stands.

“When I was an [underclassman] on the Newton South team, [students] didn’t really come for football, only Friday Night Lights,” Figuereo said. “Now, South spirit has become bigger, and people are showing up to all of the games. We’re really thankful for the football fans here.”

At home night games, the booster club sells concessions, and the dance team performs at halftime, which has also helped increase attendance at games.

“Friday night football is becoming a part of the culture here, and I’m hoping that could spur a change of making sports a bigger part of the South community,” Dalicandro said. “It’s an event, it’s a place to go and it’s fun. High school sports are fun to watch at night.”

The football team had a strong start to their season with a record of 3-0, and team manager and senior Annie Podufaly said that the team’s success is, in part, because of the team’s chemistry on and off the field. 

“Our record has been better than last year, and we’re having more fun. The team is working better together,” she said.

Approaching the end of the season, Dalicandro said that he looks forward to a solid finish and to the journey left ahead of them. 

Although the spirit for football at South may not be a parallel to the movies, the increasing attendance at games is slowly bridging South’s vibrant community through its shared spirit.