The anticipation for the Caesar Rodney and Dover high school football home openers has been building since both the CR Riders and the Dover Senators started off the season the week before with impressive victories on the road.
Since then, they have been hard at hard to prepare for the football home openers tonight that will renew the American phenomenon known as Friday night football in greater Dover.
“It’s every bit as important to these kids as it is anywhere else across the country,” CR football coach Mike Schonewolf said. “When you open at home, it’s always a very exciting atmosphere. The community wants to come out and see how the team is going to be and be part of the excitement – the band, the festivities, the people.”
Caesar Rodney outside linebacker Edward Porter and safe/wide receiver Aaron Briggs, both seniors, have been through this before and it never gets old.
“I love the energy,” Porter said. “Everybody’s ready to play. It’s just a good feeling. It’s a different feeling.”
“It’s going to be exciting just playing against a good team in front of our fans,” Briggs said.
Dover football coach Carlton Brown always looks forward to hearing the marching band as his team is warming up.
“You can see that bounce in their step and you know it’s getting close to game time when you hear the band,” Brown said. “It’s definitely an exciting time to have the cheerleaders and the band [behind you]. And you look up in the stands and see the crowd out there yelling and cheering for you – it’s just unreal.”
Dover quarterback Ian Gory and running back Donovan Cain, both seniors, will experience their fourth home opener tonight.
“The home games are a great atmosphere, especially the first one,” said Gory, who is being recruited by Delaware State, Villanova, Columbia, Princeton, Yale and Brown. “It’s nice to see the crowd and the band come out. Then, we just focus on our game.”
“I agree with Ian,” said Cain, who is being recruited by the U.S. Naval Academy. “As soon as you come out of the locker room, you get the jitters a little bit. But as soon as you see your home crowd, you start to feel more confident.”
Page 2 of 2 - As for the supporting cast, the cheerleaders will do their part to get the crowd into things. They include Dover senior Maya Grant, juniors Deja Brown and Michaela Rose and sophomore Adriana Booker-Rojas.
“It’s like the biggest game of the year because everyone is there,” Grant said. “The students, the teachers and the fans are there. The energy is so alive. It’s a great place to be.”
“I love being able to cheer my team on and lead the crowd,” Rose said. “Just being there and on the scene is important. I feel like we have a good opportunity this year.”
“In the classrooms, a lot of people are saying they are going to go to support our team and hang out,” Booker-Rojas said.
And what’s Friday night football under the lights without the marching band? The bands will march into the stadium with the drum line playing the traditional cadence.
“This is something that you put everything into and you’re excited to go out and show everybody that you’re proud of that,” Caesar Rodney drum major John Nuzzo said.
As Dover’s Deja Brown put, who is also on the marching band, a football game without the marching band “would be boring.” Brown cheers during the game but changes into band gear for the halftime show.
“The band hypes everybody up,” she said. “Without the band it’s not as fun.”
Plus, everyone gets excited when the football team gets off to a good start, Nuzzo said.
“We want to do well,” he said. “And, for us, we like to play the fight song when we win.”