Thursday night welcomed the return of high school football with a jam-packed Boise High student section, high-speed collisions and two teams looking to prove all the doubters wrong.
Then Mother Nature intervened.
A fast-moving thunderstorm rolled over Downtown Boise’s Dona Larsen Park, delaying the season opener between Boise and Ridgevue for one hour, 19 minutes. Ridgevue hung on for a 14-10 win.
The pregame buildup featured all the hallmark symbols of opening night. The pent-up excitement for a season to come. The rust of a long layoff. The nerves of athletes stepping under the bright lights for the first time.
That same stress will repeat itself throughout the Treasure Valley as the high school football season revs into high gear Friday with 20 more season-opening games, and another three following Saturday.
Storylines differ from school to school with powerhouses reloading, struggling programs banking on a turnaround and first-year coaches putting their stamp on new teams.
But every school from Rocky Mountain to Rimrock shares a single trait — Week 1 jitters.
Eagle coach Paul Peterson knows they are coming for his program. In his previous 12 seasons with the Mustangs, he said he’s never fielded a team this inexperienced at the varsity level.
“I just hope that we can get lined up and have our eyes in the right place, and our first step in the right direction and not have that deer-in-headlights look,” Peterson said.
Opening night beckons as the light at the end of the tunnel for an offseason worth of weightlifting, game planning and two-a-days, months of work condensed into two and half hours under the lights. No conference championship or state title game shares that kind of hype.
And for programs opening 2017 against a rival — like Borah vs. Capital, or Nampa vs. Caldwell — the opponent only adds to the anticipation.
“You’re all building to this moment,” Capital coach Todd Simis said. “Week 1 is always special no matter what because it’s the climax of months and months of preparation.”
Preparation doesn’t equal perfection though. Deprived of a live opponent for nine months, opening night always features plenty of missed tackles, blown assignments and brain cramps.
Ridgevue and Boise proved that Thursday as penalties, turnovers and special teams lapses came in bunches. But no one expects a flawless performance Week 1.
The first night under the lights provides players a chance to prove they are ready, that they can do more than strut in shorts and a T-shirt in July.
Mountain View coach Judd Benedick said he’ll take a breakout performance. But he’ll settle for inexperienced players proving the main stage isn’t too much for them.
“We don’t need them to perform like all-state kids Game 1,” Benedick said. “We just need them to do their job and trust the system and be where they’re supposed to be.”