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Night games back on for Northampton High School

After nearly three weeks of exclusive daytime high school sports action due to the Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile Virus threats in the area, Northampton is one of the first local schools to turn the lights back on.

Hamp athletic director Jim Miller announced Monday afternoon that the school will keep the remainder of its original schedule as is, including a handful of night contests.

“After discussing it with the superintendent and our principal, we decided to drop the ban,” said Miller. “The city was still having youth games at night, so we felt it’s better to have the community doing the same thing. It does cause for some problems, having to scramble the schedules back to including night games.”

The first partial night action for Northampton came with the girls soccer game Monday evening against Monson, which started at 5 p.m. instead of the originally scheduled time of 4 p.m.

“Once we decided to return to night action, (Monday) became a bit of a hassle because I have to schedule officials and accommodate another change in time.”

According to Miller, the school lost a considerable amount of money from all sports being moved, but primarily football, which he estimates cost about $1,000 per game. The 4-0 Blue Devils are set to take the field against AA Conference rival Minnechaug Friday at 7 p.m.

“We realized quickly that we were losing gates, so it’s a financial consideration also,” he said. “With the football team doing so well, we’re expecting big crowds for the upcoming games. So hopefully Friday will be a very good day here.”

Miller said this past Saturday’s football turnout was roughly the same as the crowd size for the Sunday, Sept. 16 contest against Agawam, which was about half that for the Sept. 7 season opener against West Springfield.

But by the following Thursday, the region-wide scare posed by mosquitoes forced Northampton to take the proactive step of following the other schools who postponed their high school games.

“There might have been a little bit of panic with every other town moving things,” he said. “After the first few started, it just snowballed with every other school. But we’ve been cleared by the town, which consulted with the superintendent. Getting back to regular days and game schedules, it’s great for everybody — coaches, players, fans, and the school.”

Miller also announced Monday that the high school track is set to undergo needed renovations over the next week.

“It’s work that needs to be done about every 10 years,” Miller said. “It’s now been roughly 12 years since we last had it worked on. We’ve had some minor problems with it lately. There are some issues with the track separating, a crack around a draining area as well as a soft spot due to a frost heave.”

Friday night’s football game will not be affected by the work on the track, which surrounds the field, as everyone connected with the game should be able to stay off the track.

The $80,000 project, funded by the city, will cause the track to close for the remainder of this week. The school hopes to have it reopen sometime next week.

The preparatory work will be performed on Tuesday, with the actual re-laying of the track to come on Saturday and Sunday. Miller said that in another 10 years or so, the entire track will need to be torn up and redone.

Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@gazettenet.com.

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