Important sports history started in Our Town

By Anna Carrera

Published 08/06 2014 03:22PM

Updated 08/07 2014 11:41AM

WESTVILLE -- An idea turned into a nationwide phenomenon; Friday night football. It all started in Our Town. Other high school games had been played at night before, but this was the first regular season one under permanent lights. WCIA-3's Anna Carrera finds out how school officials got the ball rolling.

Westville's principal was trying to get more people to come to football games. In 1928, a lot of parents missed games because they were working, so, by having it later in the day, they brought thousands to the historic game in Our Town.

In 1928, Westville football was pretty darn good.

"At that point, Westville had lost one game in the previous six years on the football field," said Paul Stines.  

And he would know. His dad was on that team.

"I'm real proud of that," said Stines. 

The football field then didn't have lights like it does now, so the principal arranged to have some brought in.

"They were five feet from the out-of-bounds line," said Stines. "Six on a side, about every fifty feet. And then one on each end zone."

Anticipation was building during the week of the game. Crowds drove by, watching coaches test the lights.

"He would throw a buckeye up in the air and, if he could see the little white dot on it, he knew the lighting was good," said Stines.  

But not everyone was so excited.

"There was one sports writer from Champaign who wasn't sure it was such a good thing for boys to be playing at night," said Stines. "He said the crowds were more rowdy at night, but in the daytime, they would be better behaved."

Rowdy or not, when the big day came, the lights worked just like they were supposed to.

"The game started at eight," said Stines. "By five, there were over a thousand people here."

The ball had been painted beforehand which made it slippery and hard to hold, but Westville went on to win 26 - 6. While making history, the school scored a big win off the field too.

"They made $2,000 which was a lot of money in 1928, when you could buy a Model A Ford for $400," said Stines. 

That $2,000 would be worth almost $27,000 today. Stines says about 4,000 people paid to watch that game and there were probably another 2,000 there that night as well.

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