Photo by Theo Tate
The goal posts from the Madison High School football field were painted over the summer. Now the posts are up and the field is ready for the first football game at the school since 1992.
Saturday will be a historic and exciting day at Madison High School.
At 11 a.m. the co-op football team between Madison and Metro East Lutheran will take the field at MHS against visiting Bunker Hill. It will mark the first time a football game has been played at Madison since 1992, the last time the Trojans fielded a team.
That’s 23 years ago and to put that in perspective, none of the current student bodies at Madison, Metro East Lutheran or Bunker Hill were even born the last time the field was used competitively.
“We’re excited that we have a home game here; it’s been more than 20 years,” Madison director of athletics Jaime Cotto said. “The contributions we’ve gotten from people have been quite amazing for this to happen. The mayor (John Hamm III) has gotten involved and really helped us out to put this all together. The community is really excited about the home game on the 12th.”
The team competes as the Metro East Lutheran Knights. The co-op could be considered an experiment due to the fact that it meshes public and private schools together on one playing field. The philosophies may vary between institutions, but in the end there’s one philosophy that doesn’t waver — they both want to play football.
“I’ve seen it watching in practices and watching in the hallways as they’re going out to practice,” MELHS director of athletics Rob Stock said. “I see the chemistry starting to build and the friendships starting to build between everyone on the team.”
And Stock said the students, faculty and MELHS community are beginning to understand the significance of Saturday’s game with the Minutemen.
“I think the players definitely do and I think a lot of the faculty and staff does, and the students are starting to realize it too,” Stock said. “Everybody is really looking forward to the game and getting high school football back at Madison.”
Cotto said it’s been a community effort in Madison to get the field game ready and the support has been astronomical.
“They are cutting the grass every other day and the field goal posts are up, but the final piece to the field that needs to be done is the scoreboard,” Cotto said. “That was donated by Columbia, so we appreciate that and I hope we have the scoreboard up this week.”
Stock said it’s been a collaboration — both administrations donated time, helped prepare the field and helped get the coop going strong overall over the months leading up to the season. He thanks them all.
The overall goal is to build enthusiasm at both schools and get the numbers up, and that’s happening. Madison’s enrollment is listed at 139 on www.ihsa.org, while MELHS has 200 students, so it’s hard to field a football game individually, but together it’s very possible.
Last season the Knights, members of the Prairie State Conference, were 0-9 and had to forfeit five games because of lack of numbers.
“I think we’re seeing a growth in numbers on both sides, and that’s really what we’re looking forward to in both programs,” Stock said. “The first game at Bunker Hill, the crowds were huge from both schools (MELHS and Madison) so that was a encouraging. You can definitely tell there is a little more interest than what we’ve received in the past.”
Cotto added, “We probably had about 200 Madison fans travel to Bunker Hill, and we’re hoping to double that (for Saturday).”
The Trojans, who are known for having an outstanding boys’ basketball program, which is coached by Cotto, are eating, sleeping and breathing football right now.
“We are basically doing football things every day,” Cotto said. “It’s busy and we’re involved and we have a good relationship with Rob Stock and Matt Tschudy (MELHS football coach). It definitely is a joint committee so we can play this football game here on the 12th.
“We usually do a big pep rally for the first game of basketball, so we know how to do a pep rally. The kids are really excited. We did a fundraiser where we’re getting every kid in the junior high and high school a T-shirt and on the back it’s going to say, ‘Madison’s back.’ Every kid is going to get a T-shirt and if they wear the T-shirt to the game, instead of a $3 entrance fee, it’s going to be a $2 entrance fee.”
Stock hopes to coordinate a way for the MELHS students to join their Madison cohorts for the pep rally.
“We’ve talked to our kids that we hope it works out in their schedule to have them go over and participate in the pep rally at Madison as part of the team,” Stock said. “There are good things happening and we hope they continue. We’re trying to build excitement any way we can.”
The Knights are 0-2 so far, losing to Bunker Hill and Barat Academy. They hope to change their fortunes Saturday on a revitalized Madison gridiron.