WATERVILLE — Drummond Field has hosted many fantastic football games over the years. Games against rival Winslow and numerous playoff games have unfolded on the Drummond turf.

None of those games, however, were played under lights. When the Waterville Senior High School football team has hosted a game at Drummond Field, it’s always been on a Saturday afternoon. The Purple Panthers even hosted a Monday afternoon playoff game against Mt. Desert Island a few years ago, when heavy rain made Saturday unplayable.

On Sept. 25, a week from this Friday, Waterville will make history, when the Panthers host Oceanside of Rockland in the first night game played at Drummond Field.

“To be on the home field at night, under the lights, it will be sweet,” Waterville senior captain Brandon Choate said.

For the Oceanside game, Waterville will rent lights. The cost of the 12 banks of lights is just over $1,100, Waterville head coach Matt Gilley said. Five-hundred dollars was donated, and the booster club raised money to pay the remaining $600. The game coincides with Waterville High’s Homecoming Weekend celebration. Before the game, Waterville will have its Homecoming parade. Beginning in the parking lot of Sacred Heart Church on Gilman Street, the parade will begin at 6 p.m. and go up Gilman before turning onto Messalonskee Avenue, then Brooklyn Avenue, before ending at Drummond Field.

“It’s extremely exciting for our community,” Waterville athletic director Heidi Bernier said.

The night game is the result of work done by Gilley.

“For generations, there have been discussions about having games under the lights, having a push to get lights,” Gilley said.

The problem, Gilley said, has always been Drummond Field’s location in the middle of a residential neighborhood, a block from the high school.

After the Purple Panthers won the Class A state championship in 1974, there was a plan to install lights at Drummond Field, but neighborhood concerns put an end to the idea. The subject of lights at Drummond Field came up again in the mid-1980s, Gilley said, but again was shot down.

Before scheduling the Oceanside game for a Friday night, Gilley reached out to the residents of the neighborhood surrounding Drummond Field. Gilley said he attempted to contact 19 homeowners. He received nine responses, with eight in favor of trying the night game.

“The biggest issue was people walking around the neighborhood after dark. Parking was, in our perception, the number one issue. The neighborhood said sometimes (parking) is an inconvience, but overall people are respectful,” Gilley said. “The neighbors overwhelmingly supported Waterville athletics and what we’re doing.”

Waterville players have played numerous night games on the road, and are excited to finally play one on their home field.

“It’s Homecoming, so that’s already bringing some excitement. First night game ever, that’s got a lot of people coming,” senior captain Justin Kornsey said. “It just feels like football. Friday night lights is tradition. Everyone at school is excited about it. We usually don’t get a huge fan section.”

Choate said he’s expecting a lot of family and friends from the Rumford and Farmington areas to come to Waterville for the night game.

“The weather is nice, cool, and crisp. Everyone’s ready to play. Everyone’s as ready as they can be. Everyone’s out of work, everyone can show up. It’s a big deal,” Choate said.

Bernier and Gilley expect the night game to give Waterville attendance a boost.

“We’re always talking about increasing attendance numbers. Night games, it just makes more sense. People get out of work, get out of school, it’s like a big event, and they have all Saturday to do something. Traditionally, attendance has suffered a little bit playing on Saturday. High school football is Friday night lights,” Gilley said. “We decided to do this, to test the waters to see how much interest there’d be. To see how many people would show up at a night game. We’re optimistic it’s created some buzz and will get some people there.”

Of the 12 banks of lights, 10 will be focused on the field, with the other two illuminating the concession stand area. Gilley said he researched how much lighting would be necessary to ensure the entire field was well-lit. The lights will be set up on Thursday, Sept. 24, and tested.

“We did way overkill with the 12 just to make sure everything was covered. I know teams in the past have gone with four (one on each side of each 25-yard line), and the endzone is black,” Gilley said.

Gilley is excited for the attention his team will receive in finally hosting a Friday night game.

“Interestingly enough, as a player I preferred to play on Saturday afternoons. You get an extra day of preperation. Playing tight end, I caught a lot of balls, and sometimes you’re not used to a ball up in the lights, it’s kind of hard to see,” Gilley said. “You get out of school, these kids, their hearts are racing. You’re automatically thinking about the game. A lot of people are like that. even people in attendance. The best part, by far, is people coming out and seeing all the hard work these guys are putting in.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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