The lights will shine on little footballers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 27, 2009

As the sun set one Friday night, the headlights of the buses and the throngs of following cars inched toward their destinations. Each bus carried the dreams of communities large and small throughout the South.

In towns like Newton and Forest, into Alabama football hotbeds Attala and Fort Payne, the faint glow of stadium lights rose above the tree-lined expanse of interstate.

Sean P. Murphy is Web editor. He can be reached at

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In the South, Friday nights are revered. It is as much a part of the Southern culture as family and religion.

At the YMCA in Vicksburg, that will change on Monday night as the first actual “night” games will be played at the Purks Y off of East Clay Street. Playing into the night is nothing new for the youngsters on YMCA football rosters, but playing a night game under the lights is a different story.

YMCA football, which has been played in Vicksburg for generations, has two fields at the Purks branch and one at Ver Beck on Oak Ridge Road. Games are played on Mondays and Tuesdays. At one time Saturday games were played, but the love affair we here have with college football put an end to that.

Talk of lights on the Y fields had been ongoing for several years. The lights were installed by Philip Jones Electric in November of 2008, said Casey Custer, associate executive director for the Vicksburg YMCA. Cooper Lighting provided “substantial contributions and a desire to enrich YMCA youth programs,” Custer said.

The lights will be used for more than football games, Custer said. A walking track surrounds the football fields at Purks ,and the lights have been used for the last 10 months for walkers. The track is open to the general public days and nights.

Something magical exists when playing football under the lights. Kids sit in the bleachers watching the hopes of their community and relish the chance to be on that 120 yards of paradise.

No state championships will be at stake when the YMCA kicks off the regular season on Monday and players won’t be taken to the field in buses with a marching bands filling the bleachers, although most Y teams do have cheerleaders.

What they will get, however, is what so many born, bred and cornbread-fed Southern boys strive for — a chance to star in their own version of Friday Night Lights.