Tom Musick: Hebron embraces spotlight

HEBRON – Logan Yerk cannot wait to head down Main Street, approach his old football field and see The Glow.

Finally.

“It’s going to be amazing,” said Yerk, 18, who graduated from Alden-Hebron this spring after playing running back, safety and kicker for the Giants. “When you come into the town of Hebron, there’s not too many lights at night.

“It’s going to be the craziest thing to see our field glowing.”

In the countdown to a historic kickoff, it already seems as if the whole town is glowing.

Sure, the Giants have played night games before. But it always has been someone else’s field. Someone else’s crowd. Someone else’s community.

On Friday, A-H will have its moment in the spotlight.

The Giants (6-2 overall, 6-2 Northeastern Athletic Conference) will host their first night game in school history when they kick off against Ottawa Marquette (8-0, 8-0) in the final game before the playoffs. A fundraiser helped provide the money for A-H to rent portable lights from a company in Rockford, and the lights were in place Thursday for a “test run” practice.

Take a trip through town – pop. 1,216 – and several facts quickly become apparent.

For one, everybody is friendly. For another, everybody knows everybody else. Last but not least, everybody knows what a big deal Friday night is going to be.

Take Joe Joseph, who has lived in Hebron and owned Crandall’s Restaurant for the past 20 years. Joseph is the brother-in-law of A-H coach John Lalor, and he served as the Giants’ offensive line and defensive line coach from 2001 to 2011.

Joseph said he was excited for the town, but more importantly he was happy for the players. The night game represented a victory for a program with a limited budget, with a coach who has to mow the grass and line the field, with a squad that is lucky to field enough players to conduct a full 11-on-11 scrimmage yet always finds a way to be successful.

“It’s really cool for the kids,” Joseph said. “You go to so many places, and everyone has lights, and everyone has really nice fields.

“For years, the standing joke was that we called our field ‘Caddyshack Field’ because we had the bumps and the gopher holes. But it was our field. We loved it.”

And the town loves its team.

Bobette Von Bergen knows about the community’s tight-knit bond as well as anyone. She graduated from A-H in 1961. She helps to run Von Bergen’s Country Market on Route 173. She also is helping to organize the Alden United Methodist Church’s 150th anniversary celebration. (Everyone is welcome to attend, by the way. It’s Nov. 9.)

As for Friday night, Von Bergen and her family have plans.

“You have to go support your local kids,” Von Bergen said. “We’re all talking about going to the game.”

The same goes for Sharon Pohlman, a teller at Hebron Community Financial Center across the street from the school. Pohlman typically enjoys quiet Friday nights in the comfort of her home, but not this week. 

“I will probably go because it’s an event,” Pohlman said. “It’s a special occasion.”

That’s the thing about Hebron. Even residents such as Pohlman, who already have seen their children and grandchildren graduate from the school, continue to support the Giants.

Why?

“You’ve got to stop and realize the size of the town,” said Pohlman, who has lived in Hebron since 1969. “It’s not a big town, and even though I might not know the kids, I’ll know a lot of the people that are there.”

Among the most passionate fans in attendance will be Yerk, who now works as a farmhand at Von Bergen’s. This week’s night game is timed perfectly because he is slated to work in the checkout house from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday as customers buy pumpkins, gourds and anything else that catches their eye.

In the past, when Yerk had games at 1 p.m. on Saturdays, he and some of his teammates would spend their Friday nights in the bleachers of bigger schools. They drove to nearby schools such as Harvard. They drove farther to schools such as Crystal Lake South.

Anywhere, really, to be a part of the atmosphere that is unique to Friday night lights.

“I wished for lights,” Yerk said. “Everybody wished for lights.”

They’re here.

And they’re glowing.

• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at tmusick@shawmedia.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.