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Friday Night Lights: Senior Nights move up as future remains uncertain

McGuinness' Drew Schomas hugs his mom before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]
McGuinness' Drew Schomas hugs his mom before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

Seniors on the McGuinness football team lined up along the sideline and patiently waited for the stadium announcer to call out their name.

Each player carried flowers and eventually joined close family members near midfield for a photo before the Irish’s season-opening win Friday against Muskogee.

With temperatures in the triple digits and a socially distanced crowd of mask-wearing fans, this wasn’t a typical Senior Night.

It also isn’t a typical year.

Schools throughout the state are holding Senior Nights earlier than usual. Generally held on the final home game of the regular season, the coronavirus pandemic has forced programs to alter their annual tradition.

“I’m hopeful we get to cruise through the season, but I wanted to make sure these seniors had their opportunity,” McGuinness coach Bryan Pierce said.

“Seeing the seniors from basketball to soccer to track getting everything taken away in the spring, I wanted these seniors to at least have their opportunity to step out here on a Friday night under the lights and be honored with their parents.”

The night was somewhat unusual for players, and they’re concerned about the uncertainty surrounding the season.

At the same time, they appreciated being recognized Friday.

“It was definitely an uneasy feeling, the reason for us having to have our Senior Night on our first game of the season,” McGuinness senior quarterback Luke Tarman said. “But I think when it got started, it was a pretty special moment.”

The night was emotional for some of the parents, including Tarman's father, Ben.

He coached his son's youth football teams, and they have bonded over the game since Luke was a kid.

"They can cancel the football season any time, so I just feel like every time I get to see him play it's just a real blessing," he said.

Tarman had a big game against Muskogee, finishing with 213 rushing yards, 92 yards through the air and three total touchdowns.

He was a workhouse for the Irish before leaving in the fourth quarter because of cramps.

For Tarman, the cliché of playing every game like it’s your last has taken on a more literal meaning.

“No one knows when it can be the last game, so everyone’s full throttle every game,” he said. “I think it makes it more exciting for the players in that aspect.”

Carl Albert – McGuinness’ District 5A-2 rival – will hold Senior Night during its season opener. The Titans host Midwest City on Friday at Gary Rose Stadium.

“In today’s world, everything is day by day,” Carl Albert coach Mike Corley said. “We just wanted to be sure and be able to honor our seniors and especially their parents and recognize them hopefully at the first game. Go ahead and get that done. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow or next week.”

The football season has been a scheduling nightmare for schools. Along with games being canceled or postponed, the day-to-day operations have been hard to manage.

“Thirty years of doing this, and this has been the oddest, most difficult year just like every coach out there has said,” Corley said. “You make a plan, and five minutes later that plan changes. It’s been one thing after another, but all you can do is just adapt and keep pushing forward.”

Holding Senior Nights earlier in the season is one of many ways programs are showing they are adapting during the strange times.

Pierce expects more schools to follow the trend.

“I’ve talked to several coaches,” he said. “I think it may be something that you’ll see moving in the forefront. I think there’s a lot of individuals that are thinking that it’s a really good idea.”

Related Photos
<strong>McGuinness' Cassius Davis hugs his mom before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</strong>

McGuinness' Cassius Davis hugs his mom before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5f4a758290ed5c7abfd64d1a9fc9c7f4.jpg" alt="Photo - McGuinness' Cassius Davis hugs his mom before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" McGuinness' Cassius Davis hugs his mom before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> McGuinness' Cassius Davis hugs his mom before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-dce31f5f130baf4727f6b4381a377879.jpg" alt="Photo - McGuinness' Cooper Moody walks toward his family before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" McGuinness' Cooper Moody walks toward his family before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> McGuinness' Cooper Moody walks toward his family before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b637ce73e161c66b4ff4cc2cb507d415.jpg" alt="Photo - McGuinness' Cooper Moody takes a photo with his family before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" McGuinness' Cooper Moody takes a photo with his family before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> McGuinness' Cooper Moody takes a photo with his family before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-15c1e4fbdd65606f2cc84ab382404a9d.jpg" alt="Photo - McGuinness' Drew Schomas hugs his mom before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" McGuinness' Drew Schomas hugs his mom before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> McGuinness' Drew Schomas hugs his mom before playing Muskogee on Senior Night at McGuinness last Friday. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Nick Sardis

Nick Sardis joined The Oklahoman in 2017, and he covers high school sports. Born and raised in Norman, he played baseball at Norman North High School and is a student at the University of Oklahoma. Read more ›

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