Friday night lights to return for Homecoming

Construction crews install field lights ahead of the Homecoming football game in October.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.

When the Malibu High football team takes the field on Friday at 6:30 p.m. against Fillmore, there will be a different feeling in the air for the Sharks and their fans. For the first time since 2008, the game will be held at night, under artificial lighting. While the road to the lights’ installation has been contentious at times, and negotiations remain ongoing, students and administrators are looking forward to the occasion.

“It’s very exciting. We are looking forward to having the entire community come out to watch our high school football team play a true night game with permanent lights,” Malibu Athletic Director Chris Neier said. “It’s going to be great for our community, great for our team and great for our school. For our team to play at night will be a special moment for them.”

Add to the fact that it is Homecoming night and a showdown for first place in the Frontier League, Oct. 26 is building up to be a night to remember.

“The lights are exciting for everybody, [but] especially for the football team. It’s definitely something that is good for the school and good for these guys who bust their butt every day,” Malibu Coach Ray Humphrey said. “They deserve to have this. The boys will get that chance to run out onto the field, see the lights and see the crowd. I can’t wait for these boys to experience it.”

A pre-game barbeque will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m., to which the entire Malibu community is invited.

This year’s Homecoming theme is the “Spirit of the Olympics,” which will be produced by actress and singer Nia Peeples. In similar style to the Olympic Games, the night will open with a parade of athletes at 5:45 p.m. with representatives of every MHS sports team participating, followed by officials from the city and school district, as well as major donors.

A ceremonial ribboncutting will be followed by a “flipping of the switch” at 6 p.m. to officially turn on the lights prior to game time. The Malibu City Council, school board members and former Malibu Principal Mark Kelly have been invited to attend.

Halftime will feature a homecoming show that includes the announcement of the Homecoming court and performances by the dance team, cheerleaders and drum line.

Malibu played a couple games a year under temporary portable lights from 2002 to 2008, when the practice ended because it was not allowed in the city’s LCP. After dwindling attendance from parents and community members in the years that followed, supporters of the lights won approval for them from the City of Malibu and the Coastal Commission last year. In November 2011, a group of parents helped fundraise close to $500,000 to pay for the lights under the auspices of a “Bring on the Lights” campaign.

Close to a dozen members on the committee, including athletic booster representatives, school administrators and community supporters, came together to bring this moment to fruition.

“It was a huge team effort. There was a lot of support,” said Pete Anthony, who served as the co-chairperson of the MHS Lights Steering Committee. “The district was very cooperative in a timely manner. People wanted a community experience.”

A large crowd is expected to descend upon the Malibu campus. Buses will be transporting students back on to the campus for the game.

“We are a community school and when you play in the evening you get triple the amount of people,” Malibu Athletic Trainer Marie Zweig said. “Some parents can’t come to the afternoon games. Many work. Now they can come and invite extended family and friends. It’s fun for everyone. This is really exciting.”

Malibu enters the game 6-2 overall and 2-0 in league play. The Sharks have recorded back-to-back shutouts during a five-game winning streak. They will face a Fillmore team that is 7-2, 3-0 in league and winners of seven of their last eight games.

“We will be completely focused on beating Fillmore. We know this will be our toughest task yet,” senior Brennan Cassone said. “But we are also excited to play under the lights. The first time I saw the light poles I almost started to tear up.”

Current plans are for the lights to be used in future soccer and lacrosse matches as well. But for tomorrow night as well as on November 2, Friday night lights is the sole province of the gridiron.

“Chills are running up my spine just thinking about it. It’s Friday night lights. That’s what high school football is about,” Humphrey said. “You play under the lights on Fridays, watch college games on Saturdays and watch the pros on Sunday. It’s the natural progression of football.”