Urbana’s homecoming game was a little different Friday night.
Instead of the normal football game, spectators watched four different powder-puff style games in which male and female athletes from various fall sports teams went head-to-head.
The change was not a choice but a necessity. Urbana High’s football team was scheduled to play Gov. Thomas Johnson High School until it was announced last week that TJ’s football team was forfeiting the entire season due to low numbers and safety concerns.
After that, Urbana was left with nothing to do Friday night, but athletic director Ryan Hines had been prepping for a “plan B” all along.
Hines said after TJ High forfeited their second game of the season, he knew there was little hope for a homecoming game, and decided to plan a night of alternative fun.
The result was four, 25-minute powder-puff games of field hockey, volleyball, soccer and a cross country relay.
The girls teams for each sport would play against football players and other fall male athletes. The only catch was that no boy could play their own sport – meaning a boys soccer player could not participate in the soccer powder-puff game.
“It was kind of a way to involve every fall team that we have on a night when nobody had anything,” Hines said.
Field hockey kicked off the night. As the whistle was blown signaling the start of the game, a male football player on the field with a hockey stick in hand shouted, “How do you play this?”
The girls ended up beating the boys 8-0.
Volleyball was next and produced similar results with the girls beating the boys 25-19.
Zoe Nelson, a junior on the field hockey team, said playing against the boys was amusing.
“It was really fun and funny because obviously they’ve never played before...[and] sometimes they think it’s easier,” she said.
Christian Melean a senior on the football team, went in thinking exactly that, but found the sport to be harder than it looks.
“It’s a really hard sport,” he said. “Now I see why it’s a really technical sport, you need really good hand-eye coordination. Props to the girls.”
The safety and running back said he was upset that he didn’t have a senior homecoming game but said he hopes it gives TJ High an opportunity to rebuild.
“Obviously I was a little bit heartbroken, but at the same time, we hope TJ is going to get a better recovery and be a better team in a couple of weeks or next year and come back stronger,” he said.
Justin Karira, a senior right guard and defensive tackle, agreed but said overall he was glad with what Hines designed as a substitute.
“I think [the night] was a good bonding experience for our team,” Karira said. “I have to say that I was really disappointed about the game...but overall, it was a fun night.”
Hines said he was worried what the turnout would be for a Friday night that didn’t consist of football, but he was happy with the results.
By halftime, most of the stands were filled with students, families and community members.
Urbana High Principal Dave Kehne said he was proud of students for adapting to the change and continuing to show school spirit.
“Students understood the situation from the beginning...[and] realized that when you’re faced with what you have, you make the best of what you have,” Kehne said.
Nelson said the night still gave everyone a chance to get excited for homecoming.
“At first, I was kind of upset, but ... playing, that was a lot of fun and I hope that we do something like this every year,” Nelson said.
Kehne said the possibility of having a similar event every year is not being ruled out.
“I have already had students and parents come up to me and say we should do this every year,” Kehne said. “Given the positive feelings and sportsmanship we have tonight, it might be something that we absolutely want to incorporate into our fall homecoming celebration.”
By the end of the night, the girls ended up dominating, but not without a small resurgence from the boys.
The boys beat the girls in the cross-country relay and almost had the girls in soccer, but ultimately lost 3-2 on penalty kicks.