Warriors look to shine under Friday Night Lights

It hasn’t been an easy year for the West Hill Warriors, but the Senior Boys football team intends to finish their 2011 season with a bang.

West Hill’s final regular season game will be on a grand stage as they face local Scarborough rival Wilfrid Laurier Blue Devils in the first-ever Friday Night Lights game between the two schools at Birchmount Stadium.

Warriors head coach Carter Livingstone said this has been the game the team has looked forward to all season.

“The guys have been talking about [this game] since I told them earlier this year,” Livingstone said. “This is the game they’ve had circled on the calendar and there’s a lot of anticipation.

“It’s our final hoorah and to go out on a winning note or with a bang would be positive moving on to next year.”

Livingstone came up with the concept over the summer while talking with Laurier head coach Louis Foulidis to help drum up school spirit and make it easier for parents to see their kids play.

“Because we play our games so early in the day, parents can’t come out to our games,” Livingstone said. “We got together and thought it would be unique, so we thought why not set it up as an annual thing.”

The game also gives his players a chance to play on a bigger stage.

“It’s under the lights, which here in Canada we don’t get to do very often,” Livingstone said. “It’s not like down in the U.S. where every [game] night is a Friday night so it gives them that experience.

Regardless of whether West Hill wins the game, the players will still remember the experience.

“It might be my last high school football game so that’s something really special to me to have the opportunity to play,” safety Giovanni Tatham said. “I know two guys there, they used to play for our school, so it’s kind of a betrayal thing but if you want to win you have to do what you have to do.”

Wide receiver Brian Henry, 17, is pumped up with having the game under the lights, in addition to having Rogers TV broadcast the game.

“It’s a big game for me because it’s my last year and I get to play in a televised game against one of our rivals, Laurier, so I’m pretty excited about that,” Henry said. “We don’t get to play many of those.

“Hopefully I’ll be really good and get a touchdown or a couple.”

Livingstone also believes creating a Friday Night Lights tradition will help revitalize football in Scarborough.

“With more participation in football, the better, and with more participation, the quality of football increases,” Livingstone said. “It’s going to take some time but we’ll get there.”

The team has struggled with injuries and will miss the playoffs with an 0-4 record. However, Livingstone has been impressed with his players’ dedication.

“There have been a few rough patches but the guys have held true, which is fantastic,” Livingstone said. “We’re fighting until the last whistle, but it’s been a tough year.”

Tatham, 18, said it’s been difficult playing with a young team but there have been some fun times and Livingstone and the coaching staff have been supportive.

“It’s been hard, the last couple of years we’ve had veterans and this year we don’t have too many,” Tatham said. “The coaching staff has been excellent and even though we’ve been losing, they’ve been positive throughout everything.”

Livingstone also hopes the young players on the team cherish the experience and will return in the fall next year.

“We’ve been building this team to be successful next year,” Livingstone said. “Hopefully the plan comes to fruition, but it’s going to take a lot of work in the off-season for these guys to get where they want to be.”

West Hill and Laurier’s junior boys teams square off first on Friday (5 p.m. ET), followed by the senior game under the lights.