It's hard enough for some football fans to wait through an off-season, but imagine going almost two years without the sport. Okoboji High School had to do just that, not having the numbers to field a varsity team last fall. But this season, the Pioneers are back.
At the north end of the Okoboji football field sits a victory bell. Last fall, it's song was silent. The usually packed Pioneer stands, empty. It's sideline, quiet. But this season, it's all about to change.
"Just the sights, the sounds, the smells of a Friday night game, the popcorn, the grass stains, it's something," said Okoboji Head Coach Jon Allen. "We want to make sure that we keep it back here in Okoboji. It looks like it's here to stay."
Last season, Okoboji made the choice not to field a varsity football squad. It was a move that was not an easy call.
"We kept putting kids out there getting beat up because they weren't ready and so that was the hardest part was making that decision and getting people on board," said Okoboji Principal Brian Downing.
"Not only did it hurt the players that played football but the student body as a whole," added Allen.
The anticipation is being felt all throughout the community from the grocery store to the Okoboji High hallways. No one is more excited then the those that will actually gear up on Friday nights.
"I'm very excited. I'm really excited," said Okoboji junior Jordan Hanna. "I feel like we can do a lot this season with just the numbers we have, even though we don't have great numbers. I feel like the kids we have are very motivated and confident in what they can do and what everyone else can do."
It's a Pioneer team that will play under the home lights for the first time in 22 months and are anxious to get a win at home. It's something that is overdue.
Although the Pioneers fell to Sibley-Ocheydan in its home debut, the excitement for the season isn't about to wear off.
"Not being able to field a varsity team last year and being able to put a varsity team back out there this year, that's something that we want to be able to celebrate," said Okoboji Athletic Director Ryan Paulsen.
The Pioneers host Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn on Friday night.
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