The Boys of Fall: A Family Tradition in the Two Virginias - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

The Boys of Fall: A Family Tradition in the Two Virginias


(WVVA) It's the snap of the football, the cheer of the crowd.

Friday night lights in the two Virginias bring a community together and can make a team a family.

"Friday night football is the event, the single event, that brings the community completely together. The kids wait all week, the families and the people in the community wait all week to be here on Friday night win or lose to watch these boys,” says Elizabeth Hegele.

Grueling practices help student athletes find their place on the field. When the dust settles, the players are just thankful to be a part of the longstanding tradition.

"Spending every Friday night at Greenbrier East football stadium is probably the best feeling ever. I've done it for four years now, and all these guys out here are just like family to me. I spend most of my time with them. It's just a close-knit family we have here. I wouldn't want to spend it any other way,” says Hunter Kirby, a senior at Greenbrier East.

For many, football Friday nights are a family affair. Maybe you have a cheerleader on the sidelines, maybe your nephew is the team's quarterback.

The family connection to football is easy to find, especially in Fayetteville where three sets of brothers play for the high school. For the Dempsey brothers, being out on the field together is like a snapshot of days gone by.

"A lot of old memories of the backyard football we used to have as kids growing up. We'd go out there and mess around and tackle each other. It's a lot of fun to go out there knowing that you have somebody who's always got your back, which we all have each other's backs, but it's a fun experience,” says Dalton Dempsey, a junior at Fayetteville.

Dalton and his younger brother, Jordan, count on each other during practices and games.They also count on their mother, who is never far away from each play.

"It's very exciting, it's a little nerve-wracking. I get nervous as a mom but it's exciting to watch them play together and play with their teammates that they've been friends with,” says Shawn Dempsey.

Just as players break tackles, Friday night football breaks boundaries. No matter your income level, the house you live in, the car you drive, and no matter what side you're cheering for, you can find your place at the game, escape the real world and just have a good time.

"All around the community, you have good family members, you have good coaches that really care about our kids, and these kids put a lot of work into what they do. The fan base is really good even when the season is not going very well,” says Thomas Carter.

And yes, a loss can be heartbreaking. But the constant support from fans fuels the team's drive to compete.

"It really inspires the guys when they can look up there and see the fans that come out to support all the hard work they put in throughout the week and throughout the two days in August. It really means a lot to them when they can come out and they can hear the roar of the fans,” says Rasman Walker, assistant coach at Greenbrier East.

Win or lose, the connection between players and their community is not in vain.

There's something about Friday night football in the two Virginias, and there's something about those Friday night lights that shine down on everybody and remind us that we aren't so different from each other after all. 

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