When Kristin Patton was hired as an administrative assistant for the Mountain View athletic department in 2016, she was presented with a simple task at the Wildcats’ football field.

There was just one problem: Patton didn’t know her way to the stadium.

Patton was too ashamed to ask Mountain View athletic director Greg Margheim how to find the field. So she wandered around the perimeter of the school until she located it.

But since that winter day in 2016, Patton has found her stride. The former competitive cheerleader organizes volunteers for the ticket gate at Friday night football games. She assists concession stand workers, sells season passes and makes sure the Wildcats are in compliance with the Virginia High School League.

She’s one of many unsung heroes in the Fredericksburg area that create a safe and lively atmosphere on Friday nights that allows the players and coaches to perform and their supporters to soak up the vibe.

“It’s huge. They make everything go,” Margheim said of the countless behind-the-scenes workers that assist on Friday nights in the area. “It’s a whole community and school effort. It’s awesome. We couldn’t run a football game without those people. I don’t think people know what it takes to run a varsity football game. It’s a lot of work. It’s not easy.”

A CHANGED PERSPECTIVE

Jeff Berry admittedly had tunnel vision when he was the Brooke Point head football coach from 2000–12.

His sole focus was preparing his football team to deliver a sterling performance each time it took the field.

Berry didn’t have the appreciation of all that goes on during the week and game day to conduct a Friday night contest until he was hired as the Colonial Forge AD in 2013.

There is the coordination of game officials and communication with the administration of the visiting school. Fields have to be lined and painted and concessions must be stocked with food, snacks and workers. A chain crew has to be scheduled to volunteer. The stadium has to be secure. The clock operator and stadium announcer must be in sync with the timing of all the pregame activities.

Band directors, cheerleading coaches, ROTC instructors and others also invest their time.

Berry stressed that for the most part the assistance comes from volunteers.

“It’s amazing when you think about all the work that goes into it just so a game can take place and everybody can have a good time,” Berry said. “As a football coach you’re there to win a football game and hope your team plays well. But to everybody else, Friday night football in America is an event for the school and community. A lot of pieces have to fall into place without any hiccups.”

A DIFFERENT ANIMAL

The need for volunteers and community support is exacerbated at Louisa. The Lions put on a production that separates their atmosphere at “The Jungle” from many in Virginia.

The game ball is parachuted in. There are fireworks and a fire-breathing lion. For several years, Louisa had a now-deceased live lion mascot named Bubba in a cage on the sideline.

So Louisa head coach Will Patrick has no choice but to notice and appreciate the effort that goes into setting the stage for every home game.

“With our production, it takes a lot of people working hard and working together,” Patrick said.

Patrick noted it’s not just the spectacle on game night that makes Louisa special. The Lions have a dedicated chain crew, a field turf crew and an organized student section called the “Louisa Loonies.”

Patrick’s parents own a restaurant in the town of Mineral that caters every pre-game meal. Other schools have churches and civic organizations that come together to provide pre-game nourishment.

Patrick has left the stadium as late as 3 a.m. after a game and has seen other Louisa staff there, too.

“It’s a lot of moving parts,” Patrick said. “At the end of the day the kids are playing ball and everybody’s cheering for them. We try to do it big time in Louisa. Our AD, George Stanley, does a great job of getting it organized and on-point. All I have to worry about is coaching ’em up on Friday nights.”

SOUNDS OF THE GAME

Caroline cheerleading coach Patricia Douglas has served in that capacity and surrendered her fall Friday nights since the school opened in 1977.

“Some people look at me like I’m one of those monuments on Mount Rushmore,” Douglas said.

For the past 42 years, Douglas has watched her colleagues depart on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. with a wave and a “Have a good weekend.”

“My weekend starts at 10 o’clock,” Douglas said.

Douglas, who is also an English teacher, said when she decided to choose education as a career path she desired to be involved in her students’ lives outside of the classroom, as well.

She said coaching cheerleading and witnessing the highs and lows of the Cavaliers’ football and basketball programs have been a rewarding experience.

She said one vivid memory is traveling more than 100 miles to Fort Defiance High School in the early 1990s for a regional playoff game where the stadium was next to a cow pasture. Douglas said football is so important to the livelihood of a high school because their success or lack of it sets the tone for school spirit the remainder of the year.

“It would be interesting to do a fast action video to see what all goes on from the ticket takers to the concession stand to the band kids preparing and the custodians cleaning up,” Douglas said. “It’s a huge effort to make it happen and it’s a sacrifice a lot of people don’t realize.”

Like Douglas, Mountain View band director Gene Welch is responsible for some of the sounds spectators hear on Friday nights.

Welch was hired five years ago and the band has continued to thrive in competitions and assessments. But Welch said that doesn’t compare to the thrill of performing on game night.

In addition to playing at home, the Wildcats’ band travels to all games within Stafford County.

“For the marching band it’s probably the biggest part of what we do,” Welch said. “Competitions are nice, but Friday night is certainly the highlight for our kids.”

A WORK OF ART

Darrell Hayden doesn’t paint the fields at Massaponax, work on the chain crew and cut the stadium grass for recognition.

Hayden and his wife also painted the Panther paws that can be seen on the pavement as spectators enter the stadium.

But one of Hayden’s proudest moments since he began his duties when the school opened in 1998 came 12 years ago when he spent three days meticulously painting the word “Panthers” in each end zone.

A pilot friend of Hayden’s flew above the stadium and took a photograph of his work. The image hangs in the Massaponax front office.

Hayden also helped tape the players’ shoes on their feet during a muddy playoff game at Stone Bridge several years ago.

“Every time they took a step the shoes would suck off their feet,” Hayden recalled.

Recognition doesn’t come often for the volunteers and behind-the-scenes workers on Friday night. But Welch, Mountain View’s band director, does delight in one moment that touched him and his students.

Mountain View football players showed up to a band competition to support their classmates. Welch’s students clearly took notice.

“The kids felt great about that,” Welch said. “It’s nice when we can all support each other.”

Taft Coghill Jr: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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