Nothing will ever replace the Miss-Lou on Friday nights during the fall for me.
But what I experienced Friday night in West Monroe was absolutely mind-blowing.
I don’t have a dog in the hunt. OK, I may have a Rebel in the future with my granddaughter.
But after attending my first West Monroe football game at Rebel Stadium Friday night, you would have a hard time convincing me there’s a better or more impressive setting, atmosphere, exciting and entertaining place to watch a high school football game for miles and miles around.
I’ve been to several small college football games in Louisiana and Mississippi. They could learn a lesson from West Monroe.
I attended Friday’s game against Evangel to do a feature on West Monroe defensive tackle Malcolm Moore and his father, Tony, who played high school football in Ferriday; and on Evangel offensive coordinator Connor Champion, whose dad, Joe, played football at Huntington School in Ferriday before moving on to Southeastern Louisiana and LSU.
Walking across the expansive parking lot and seeing an 18-wheeler with a West Monroe band banner across the side was just the start. (By the way, the West Monroe band is second to none).
My son, Jake, and I rode the elevator (yes, the elevator) to the press box so he could get me a field pass.
Take my word that this is not your normal high school press box.
I kept looking for a sports information director.
Then we walked down to the field, past all the political candidates, and onto the luxurious turf.
The first thing that hits you is the Jumbotron scoreboard.
Man, talk about nice. I actually walked more than 15 yards without stepping in a hole for a change. Of course, I had to make sure I didn’t get caught up in the cable running for the TV crews and the persons filming the game for replays on the jumbotron.
I walked past a medical tent and back to back HD televisions which offensive players would watch on one side, with defensive players watching on the other to review plays from the game.
At 6:45 p.m., the West Monroe football team filed out in single file at Phil Collins’ “Something in the Air Tonight” song blared over the speakers.
The team walked past the rabid students in the end zone stands before running through a long gauntlet of dance team and cheerleaders to the sideline.
By the time the game kicked off, the stands behind us were jam-packed.
The band, seated in its bleachers across from the home side, played perfectly timed music between plays.
The game was not typical West Monroe, as the Rebels sputtered a bit early, while Connor had his very impressive quarterback, Blake Shapen, rolling out and throwing quick passes to give the Eagles an early lead.
At halftime, I walked under the bleachers to get me and Jake a Gatorade.
Several concession stands stood side by side like a section at LSU.
West Monroe took charge in the second half, much to the delight of the hometown fans, who did not leave until the final whistle.
And don’t think all of this does not make an impression on players and coaches, even for the home team.
“It’s always quite a crowd,” Malcolm Moore said. “It’s like no other. It’s basically like a mini-college. And the fans show a lot of respect for us.”
Champion was just as impressed.
“The environment was incredible,” Champion said. “It lived up to the hype. Everyone talked about West Monroe being a packed house, and it was that tonight. It was loud from pergame on. It was a pleasure to play here.”
It was indeed a pleasure to attend a game for me. I had a blast. And, who knows, 12 years from now in retirement I may be spending some Friday Night Lights at West Monroe. I have no doubt it will still be first class.