Well folks, this Friday night at Veterans Field, the Aitkin Gobblers will take their 2-0 record into the home opener against Two Harbors.
This is 2021 and this game should be somewhat normal. Fans will stream in and fill the stands, the concession stand will be making popcorn and other goodies and the players will ready themselves to run out of the field house to the screaming parents, students and the rest of those in attendance.
I have seen a good share of these openers from Elmer Salvog’s great teams of the ’50s to Alan Hills juggernauts of the past few years and it is always exciting to see the players race out onto the field for the first time.
Gobbler teams have played on this field for the better part of 80 years. Some teams have been great, some not so much but the excitement never wanes. I coached on this field when I was in the junior high program and I have to admit the level isn’t quite the same but it’s there and there is nothing like it.
Friday nights are football nights, plain and simple. Even though I think the term “Friday Night Lights” is overused, it is what it is. Everybody wants to be at the football game and it doesn’t matter the weather – people will be there.
History oozes from every corner of Veterans Field. The memories of Jack Park and Rodney Holm in the ’50s to the coaching of Truman Buisman and players like Steve Reinhardt and Vern Backstrom in the ’60s and Joel Hyytinen and Todd Roden in the ’70s. The ’80s saw Lee Alto and players like Mike Hillman, Scott MacDonald, Bob Cummings, Luke Croatt and Jeff Ruschmeier followed in the 90s by Ross Panko, John Wilkowski, Dan Jones and Joe Hasskamp. I could name a couple hundred great players who laid the foundation for the football teams of today, but these are just a few of the names that came to mind.
Veterans Field is a new name as time goes, but the field itself holds ghosts of thousands of players and coaches and fans that have visited and called it home for so many years.
When you get to the game this Friday just stop for a minute and breathe in the fall air, it’s Friday night, time for high school football, Aitkin Gobbler style!