Football wasn’t supposed to be happening at Velma-Alma this week, but the school decided to be great neighbors and host the Wilson-Central High game after light failure at Wilson High School.
The game was a Class B District game and was only 45 minutes away when Wilson couldn’t get the lights fixed. They started to call area 8-man football schools for field availability.
Brian Standridge, one of the local referees who in his 13 years of officiating has never had something like this happen, said they got the news about moving the game to Velma-Alma and was taken back by the hospitality of the district.
“They ended up getting a hold of Velma because they had a bye week and asked them ‘we have a problem with stadium lights, we got a district game and it has to be played, can we use your field,’” Standridge said. “Velma said ‘of course’ and they went out there to turn on the lights and the scoreboard saying it will be ready when we got there. We loaded up to head to Velma. My crew and I went to our locker room and the Athletic Director for Velma shows up with a cardboard box and they had water and candy bars. He said that ‘we wanted to make you welcome even though you are calling for another team and I just wanted to let you know that Velma is your people and we are here to support you in any way we can.’ I thought that was extraordinary because for another school to step up to help another school out because they were having a problem, I have been calling for 13 years now and that is the first time I have ever had to leave one field to go to another field to ref a game. They went above and beyond, the whole school system and the town stepped up to help out.”
Standridge called his head of officials and told the OSSAA about the good deed and they were happy to hear about the good sportsmanship and made a statement giving props to the Velma-Alma district.
“Kudos to Velma-Alma for hosting the Wilson vs. Central High football game last night at the last minute when the lights wouldn’t come on at Wilson,” OSSAA said in a statement. “Great hospitality was shown to the teams, coaches, officials and fans by Velma-Alma’s Athletic Department.”
Velma-Alma Athletic Director Randy Smith said that the call came to the Comets High School Principal and they got together with him and Superintendent Ray Rice and were happy to offer their services.
“I just happened to be still in town. I ran out there and turned the lights on, powered everything up, got our pylons set and ready for them to play football,” Smith said. “It was a district game they needed to play since Friday wasn’t an option because some of the officials wouldn’t be able to make it back and with the kids on Fall Break and all so we just said it wasn’t a problem. They didn’t have a concession because we had nobody to work it but we ended up going ahead and pulling out drinks and candy for the refs and got them set and ready to go. We just do what we can for whoever. It is called Southern Hospitality is what you would call it.”
The game, after warm-ups and all was said and done, kicked off at 9:15 p.m. with Wilson getting the 62-24 victory over Central High in the game.