The last time Glen Oaks hosted a varsity football game on its campus, Richard Nixon was president and the Vietnam War was ongoing.
Friday, the Panthers have their long-awaited homecoming. Capitol visits Cedar Grove Drive for a 7 p.m. kickoff, believed to be the first game on the GOHS campus in 42 years.
“One of my coaches (Willie Williams) has lived in the neighborhood since 1974, and he said he’s never seen a home game here,” said Glen Oaks coach Vernon Langley, a 1991 GOHS graduate. “We’ve asked other people in the community. They’ve said the same thing.”
The Panthers have long played their home games at either Memorial or Olympia stadiums, but recent renovations to the Glen Oaks stadium include new aluminum bleachers and a new press box.
Glen Oaks opened with road games against White Castle and McKinley.
On Thursday, Langley said workers were busy getting the stadium ready.
“We’ve got a lot of work going on, just putting together the whole game-day scenario,” Langley said. “We always played jayvee here. But varsity is a big difference. A bigger show. The real deal.”
If helping prepare for a historic home game wasn’t enough, Langley has had every bit the challenge trying to keep his team sharp.
Hurricane Isaac pushed Glen Oaks’ opener at White Castle to the first Monday of the month, leaving GOHS only two days to prepare for McKinley on the following Thursday. In the two losses, GOHS had a hard time, getting outscored 86-2.
Capitol has been a little better on defense, but the Lions managed only one TD in a 37-8 loss to East Feliciana last week after being blanked 22-0 by McKinley in their opener.
Capitol coach Damieon Mills said the key for them is to block out the hoopla surrounding Glen Oaks’ return home.
“Our job is to come out and play our game and not get caught up in the excitement,” Mills said. “Just do our thing. We leave all the excitement to Glen Oaks.”
Langley said the Panthers should get some help from a charged-up home crowd. But he said the biggest boost will come from getting into a routine this week after Isaac cost them two weeks of normalcy.
“Playing without practicing, that was kind of hard on our kids,” he said. “Everything’s back to normal now. We’ve had a good week of practice, and the kids are motivated.”