Clad in green and gold, Crystal Lake South fans lined the visitor bleachers at Marian Central High School’s stadium and sat patiently for the opening kickoff to another prep football season.
By the second possession of the regular-season opener, the Gators fans were in midseason form, cheering a sack of Hurricanes QB Billy Bahl and quickly booing the referees for calling an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that negated the play.
Similar cheers and jeers could be heard across the area Friday, as 14 varsity teams, from Harvard to Cary-Grove, started the newest prep football season in McHenry County.
“Football is a brotherhood,” said Crystal Lake South parent Mistique Cook, who earlier watched her son play the junior varsity game against Marian Central. “I support the brotherhood and all the kids, shouting everyone’s name.”
Cook, and the other parents, alums and students who made the trek from Crystal Lake to Woodstock to cheer on the varsity team against a formidable Marian Central squad also received a jolt from a face familiar to Chicago Bulls fans.
Former Bulls forward and current broadcaster Stacey King joined the visitor section with his girlfriend, Debbie King, to support her nephew, Payton Minogue, who starts at quarterback for the Gators this year.
“He waited his turn and now he is getting his shot. He will do all right,” King said. “I plan on coming to as many games as I can until the [Bulls] season starts. October is really tough for me because we start preseason ... but the Fridays I can come, I’ll come to check him out.”
As the Marian marching band began rallying the crowd before kickoff, Minogue’s dad, Rick Minogue, said he was anxiously awaiting the new prep football season.
“I love this time of the year,” he said. “It’s fall. We have football. High school football is awesome. It’s my favorite time of the year.”
Crystal Lake South parent Michelle Frank hasn’t missed a football game in the past four years to see her son, Sean, who plays on the offensive line this year for the varsity team. She also has another son in the high school marching band.
The game itself is merely a sideshow.
“For me, it’s mostly watching my kids coming to play,” she said.