There’s a lot that goes into preparing to host a high school football game each week. For schools like Golden Valley and Merced, they can follow a routine that’s worked for years.
As a new high school, El Capitan doesn’t have that routine yet.
Ready or not, El Capitan will host their first ever varsity game tonight against Buhach Colony at Merced College’s Stadium ’76.
“We did research of other schools,” El Capitan principal Anthony Johnson said. “We looked at what Golden Valley and Merced did in the past when they played at the college. It’s a process right now. We have to find a routine. There may be some adjustments.”
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Gauchos athletic director Lou Souza reached out to fellow athletic directors Scott Wine of Buhach Colony and Scott Winton of Livingston for help.
Souza’s checklist for tonight’s game was lengthy.
He had to make sure the public address system was working and find an announcer. He needed people to run the clock, a chain gang for the field, provide security and find a location for the officials to dress.
There was also the snack bar menu to consider. The school finally decided on staples like linguica, hot dogs and pizza. Pulled pork sandwiches will also be sold tonight as a specialty item.
“It’s hard gauging what the crowd will be like and how much food we need,” Souza said. “You don’t want to go over or under. I’ve had barbeques and had leftovers, but you don’t want to start cutting into your profits. We expect a decent crowd. I think it’s an intriguing game. You’ve got the new school against Buhach Colony, which is one of the better teams in our area. We think Buhach will travel well.”
The goal will to make Stadium ’76 feel like home as much as possible.
“Game day will start in the morning,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to get all the items we need to move over to the college. Hopefully we can get as much Columbia blue in the stands as we can. We’ll have our goal post covers. We’ll Gaucho it up as much as possible.”
On the field, El Capitan head coach Mike Machado has seen the team intensity pick up as the first game approaches. The Gauchos will play this season without a senior class, which puts them at a severe disadvantage going up against teams like Buhach Colony and Merced the first two weeks.
“I think it’s setting in that it’s for real now,” Machado said. “There’s excitement with a lot of anxiety. This is an actual game now. I’ve got 33 guys who have never played a varsity football game before. They’re going to see a lot of people in the stands. There’s going to be a lot of lights on. This is big time as far as high school football.”
The Gauchos are facing a Thunder team trying to bounce back after missing the playoffs for the first time in four years.
“Obviously they’re one of the better teams in our area,” Machado said. “Coach Kevin Swartwood built that program the right way and coach (Kevin) Navarra was there with him as his defensive coordinator. What I’ve seen on film is they’re sticking with what works for them.”