It was a rainy night that began with lightning delays and lots of uncertainty.
Elk Grove’s football players remained patient.
After a season of mostly-empty stadiums due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Elk Grove Grenadiers football team ended up hosting its first full-capacity home game Sept. 17 at Haskell Field. It was the team’s first full in-person game since the fall 2019 season, and not even the lightning could postpone the excitement and intensity that was felt among the players and the fans.
“I just wish other people could be in my shoes to experience it,” junior defensive end Kachi Ugwu said in an interview.
This year is Ugwu’s second year on varsity, and although the speed and intensity of the game isn’t new to him, the fall atmosphere certainly is.
The crowd on that September night was a different kind of hyped. Ugwu “knew it was going to be lit” after a few tough practices and increased motivation from the team’s two previous losses to Schaumburg and Vernon Hills.
But just as everyone thought the wait for “normal” football at the Elk Grove stadium was finally over, a rain delay added extra impatience and anticipation throughout the players and fans. And although the visitors side was nearly empty, the Elk Grove student section was glowing with anxious Superfans decked out in neon.
“None of us were expecting a huge turnout but everyone was there and after the wait, we had to come out hot. We knew exactly what we needed to do,” Ugwu said.
It took the Grens no time to get down to business. They were already up 35-0 at halftime with touchdowns from Garrett Ewen, Jacob Elsner and Mitch Janczak.
To outsiders — and EGHS students who attended their first in-person game — it’s difficult to differentiate the feeling of home games versus away games. For some fo the players, there is a large difference in the element of home games in which emotion plays a huge role.
“At away games I tend to get more nervous because of expectations and pressure, but at home games, when you have a really big supporting crowd, it takes the edge off,” Ugwu said.
Led by Hannah Grizik, the Elk Grove Nation is a key factor in building confidence within the players. The student section hypes up the players and adds to the adrenaline-pumping setting.
The transition from a huge win to a 42-7 home loss against Hersey the following week was setback for the Grens, but despite the upset, the student section still cheered and pumped music through the duration of the game.
The Grens are now 2-4 and preparing for a homecoming match-up against Prospect High School on Oct. 8.