HARRISBURG — Harrisburg High School football coach Travis Kinkade did something special for the school's first football homecoming game: He spruced up the artwork on the football field.
Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School beat Harrisburg 41-0, but the field looked better than it had all year.
A big, white block "H" adorned the Harrisburg football field for the first time.
"Coach Kinkade actually painted (the "H") out," athletic director Doug Fessler said.
"We all talked a couple of weeks ago and said we needed to put something in the middle (of the field). That ("H") was probably gonna be the simplest thing. ... And we made it work," Fessler said.
The 20-yard lines were striped with red paint on either side of the white chalk. The hash marks, sidelines and yard numbers were freshly painted. The turf was ready for action.
So was Tolton.
The Trailblazers came into the game winless, and they took out their frustrations on the over-matched Bulldogs. For Tolton, the game was a bit like looking into the mirror because, like Harrisburg, its a young program that's had its own fits and starts.
Despite being dominated by the Trailblazers, the Bulldogs' mood was not dampened. The Bulldogs started some new traditions.
Tolton won its first game of the season with size, power and speed. The Trailblazers used their size to open holes for the running backs and quarterback Christian Elliott. Tolton used power to get extra an push on short yardage plays, and on defense, to penetrate into the Harrisburg backfield. And it used its speed to stymie Harrisburg's lateral passes and misdirection plays.
While the scoreboard didn't reflect it, Tolton did have some miscues. A pass went off a receiver's hands for an interception. A ball carrier fumbled the pigskin, though Tolton managed to recover it. And Elliott had to make an athletic one-handed grab to save a snap that almost flew over his head.
But Harrisburg made more mistakes and could not get the ball moving on offense. Elliott took notice and sympathized with the first-year football team.
"We were in their shoes two years ago. So I know exactly where they've been, and I know it's not easy. And so I have a lot of respect for these guys — they're doing a great thing, starting up the program," Elliott said.
Harrisburg is also starting up some new traditions. It crowned its first ever football homecoming queen and king — Andrea Schafer and Aaron Blakemore.
"My dream came true," Schafer said.
"It felt amazing winning and I wouldn't wanna do it with anyone other than Andrea. She's been my best friend throughout high school," Elliot said.
"Actually that was my dream: winning with Aaron," Schafer said.
Schafer and Blakemore had their picture snapped by a gaggle of parents when they stepped off the field. Ironically, Blakemore was wearing a blue shirt and a blue-and-silver-striped tie — the color of Tolton's uniforms. Behind the queen and king, Harrisburg's cheerleaders took the field for the first time this season, dancing to DJ Kahled's "All I Do Is Win."
Though the homecoming win would not materialize for the Bulldogs, Pfc. Ethan Williams — a 2013 Harrisburg graduate — said the festivities were important for the town.
"It's a chance to prove ourselves, say that we're more than just basketball, since we're a big basketball town," Williams said.
The block "H" on the 50-yard line was new tonight, but it's likely to stick around.
"We'll keep it painted for the rest of the season, the last couple of games," Fessler said. "I don't see why we don't keep that for the rest of the years to come."
Supervising editor is Nina Pantic.