Things could not have gone much better on Friday, August 31 in Verndale.
The new lights came on. The new press box was open. The new storage area was used. The new scoreboard worked just fine. The new concession stand served great game food. And I believe someone used the new rest room facilities.
And the Pirates won!
Verndale football actually won way before the final gun sounded as the Pirates opened with a 48-6 season opening win over Brandon-Evansville.
In a short 12 months, the Verndale community came together to plan, design, fundraise, build, dedicate and enjoy their new football facility. A project that exceeded $80,000 was completed, when a simular project in other communities might take five years.
Let's meet the starting lineup for the Verndale Friday Night Lights Committee:
Directors: Naomi Moyer, Joe Hinkle, Gary Braemer, Chris Youngbauer, Mark Motchenbacher and Mike Mahlen.
Media Liaison: Jim Carr
Secretary/Treasure: Jim Madsen
Vice Chair: Jay Weiher
Chair: Mike Lovelace
This group is quick to point out that many businesses, individuals, and organizations also stepped up and helped finish a project that will leave a legacy in Verndale for years to come. The whole project is a testament to what can happen when a community works together.
As the Friday Night Lights Committee was introduced prior to the game Friday night, the Verndale school board presented Mike Lovelace with a lifetime pass to all Verndale home game.
Then long time head coach Mike Mahlen took center stage. Mahlen, who is entering his 39th year as head coach in Verndale, is now just five wins away from his 300th victory. Besides numerous conference titles, Mahlen's Pirates have won 12 section titles, and five times have advanced to the state title game, winning state titles twice.
Mahlen was named 9-Man Coach of the Year in 1996, 1997, and 2002. He is the past president of the Minnesota High School Football Coaches Association and last year was a national finalist for the American Football Coaches Association Power of Influence Award.
Just before the presentation of the colors, the Verndale School Board, Friday Night Lights Committee and the Verndale community dedicated the new complex as Mahlen Field.
As an outsider, it was one of those special moments for me to be a part of the celebration and the ceremony. We saw so much joy, pride and dedication all come together. In so many ways... from the steps of faith, to the fundraising, the hard work, to the dedication and the presentation of colors...everyone involved in this night did it right!
A great movie once coined the phrase "Build it and they will come." That same movie had an even better line, "People will be so overcome with memories they will have to wipe them away with their hand."
No one will ever duplicate what has happened in Verndale.
And no one will ever forget the Friday night lights on that warm August night in 2007.