Argenta-Oreana High School has never before hosted a semifinal football game, among many firsts in a record-breaking undefeated season for the Bombers.
With newly upgraded athletic facilities, including artificial turf on the football field, Argenta-Oreana is ready to host Camp Point Central in a battle to see who will play for a Class 1A championship next week at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
“We're working on getting the concession stand ready and the big tailgate party,” said Mike Williams, the school's athletics director. “For the field, we don't have to do a whole lot to be ready, just clean it up a little bit.”
Two other local high schools will be hosting semifinal games this weekend as well: In Class 2A, Maroa-Forsyth will be at St. Teresa with a 1 p.m. kickoff, and Monticello hosts Carlinville in a Class 3A matchup that starts at 2 p.m. From seating to concessions and everything required in between, an army of volunteers is needed for games at which big crowds are expected to ring the host field in support of their teams.
Argenta-Oreana will face Camp Point Central at 1 p.m. today (Saturday), with a tailgate party hosted by the Argenta-Oreana Education Foundation starting at noon. Williams said the school has plenty of parking available and the opposing team, who has a long drive home, will get a good meal after the game, too.
“Parking is one of my easiest things. That's low on my list,” said Dan Sheehan, athletics director at Monticello High School. The Monticello sports complex includes a large grassy field available for overflow parking.
Sheehan said his bigger tasks are making sure the admission gates have enough change, plenty of seating and programs are available for fans, team facilities are ready and, like Argenta-Oreana, ensuring the Carlinville players have a good meal after the game.
Practice time for the football team was one of his worries, he said. They don't want to tear up the field, where the school has played its football games for almost 100 years, prior to the game, and practicing on a muddy field is likely to do that.
"Where do you put 60 kids when you can't go outside?" Sheehan said.
Both schools, and St. Teresa High School count on volunteer parents and community members to help with ticket sales, concessions, preparation and — this week — snow removal, an unusual addition to the plans in mid-November.
Sean German, principal of Argenta-Oreana High School and Ken Hendriksen, executive director of the St. Teresa Education Foundation, asked for volunteers to come and help with snow removal on the fields and bleachers. Two men had snow blowers on St. Teresa's field early Thursday.
When the St. Teresa and Maroa-Forsyth schools were in the same conference and played regularly, their rivalry was legendary. After a short hiatus, meeting in the playoffs this late in the season with both teams undefeated has both fan bases at a fever pitch.
The Decatur Park District's Bill Clevenger and Roger Chaney lent St. Teresa two sets of bleachers, Hendriksen said. One was placed on the visitors' side of the field on the east side and one behind the south end zone for students. The school also moved a set of its baseball field bleachers to the visitors' side as well.
Pepsi brought a trailer, which will be on the visitors' side, to make purchasing concessions easier, and four portable toilets will be delivered to that side of the field in time for the game, Hendriksen said. They're prepared for a record crowd that could number in the thousands, but weather could be a factor.
The National Weather Service in Lincoln is predicting a cloudy day today, Saturday with a high of 38, winds 5 to 8 mph, and a 30 percent chance of snow after midnight.
Indoor restrooms will be available, and Hendriksen said the school building will be open at the north and south ends of the building. The Decatur Police Department is providing some extra security, and the St. Teresa Booster Club has already organized members to provide the volunteers for other duties.
“(The students) are making some promotional St. T signs for the student section,” Principal Larry Daly said. “We've had spirit days all week and they've been able to be out of uniform and wearing their spirit wear. Fans are encouraged to make noise makers, signs and banners and to use mostly orange."
Some on social media had suggested moving the Maroa-Forysth at St. Teresa game to accommodate what is expected to be a big crowd, but Henkdriksen said the team earned its opportunity and the school is ready.
“Obviously, we have more than enough seating capacity, and it's home field advantage,” he said. “Anyone that's involved in athletics understands that. We earned home field advantage, and the coaches wanted to play here.”