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One more day for St. Francis football grand opening

The field at Wheaton St. Francis High School sits empty after their game Friday night was canceled.
Mark Busch -
The field at Wheaton St. Francis High School sits empty after their game Friday night was canceled. Mark Busch -

WHEATON – St. Francis had to wait four years for the chance to play a football game on campus.

What’s another 13 hours?

The Spartans were set to open the sparkling new Kuhn Memorial Stadium on Friday night against Riverside-Brookfield. The new digs, complete with lights, artificial turf, and new home and away bleachers, replaced an old grass field that easily flooded and was seldom used for anything but practice in recent years.

Mother Nature had other plans for the opening of the stadium, and after rain, wind and lightning rolled through the area, the varsity game was officially postponed shortly after 8 p.m.

Yet the delay and eventual postponement was mostly taken in stride.

“Football is football,” senior lineman Keegan Riccobene said. “As a team, it doesn’t matter if it’s Friday night. We could play Sunday. We’re all ready for Game 1, no matter what time, no matter what place. We’re ready to play ball in our stadium.”

During the weather delay, St. Francis players walked the halls inside the school. Some listened to music on headphones, some refilled water bottles gone dry.

Many paced just to keep moving.

When the game was officially moved to today, St. Francis coach Greg Purnell gathered his players briefly and imparted one simple message.

“I’ve learned after 29 years as a head football coach and 47 years as a high school football coach that you can’t control things that you can’t control,” Purnell said. “Weather is one of them, but life goes on and you just say, ‘Hey, see you tomorrow morning.’ ”

St. Francis players shed their uniforms for street clothes and headed home to rest up for today’s game. The anticipation of finally playing a true home game may make sleep hard to come by for some players.

“It’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be awesome,” senior fullback and linebacker Craig Pallardy said. “How pumped we were to play tonight, it’s just going to carry over and it’s going to be even crazier to finally play at home.”

“This gives us something to look forward to,” Riccobene said. “We were so ready to hit someone else after all these days of practice. Now we have to wait another day, but it’s just more anticipation, more energy building. We’re all going to be ready [today].”

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