The pristine turf field popped; it looked bright under the new lights even on a drab, wet Friday night.
There were freshly painted red home bleachers, a new snack stand. There was a new scoreboard, perched on a small hill beyond a goalpost. The hill sported freshly mown grass, descending down to the new track that surrounded that bright, brand new turf.
The scene had that storybook, Friday Night Lights feel.
It was beautiful. It, decidedly, felt like home.
“It’s just awesome. My dad would be proud,” said ceremonial coin-tosser Vince McAneney Jr. son of the late coach who’s eponymous stadium — Vince McAneney Stadium — hosted its first night game Friday night after undergoing a complete makeover last season.
“We’re just blessed — this night was perfect,” said junior running back Aaron Williams, crying tears of joy after running the ball 16 times for 189 yards and three touchdowns, leading Pennsauken to a 32-13 win over Paul VI on opening night for both teams.
Last year, Pennsauken played every one of its games on the road as construction was in full force.
This year, it’s the opposite. After the first night home game in the history of a storied program, every one of the team’s games this season is a home game. On that turf. Under those Friday Night Lights.
“It’s beautiful. Lights, camera, action,” said quarterback Deswa Evans. “Shout out to my line. They showed a lot of heart tonight.”
Evans flashed athleticism and versatility, making plays with his arm and legs and helping the Indians establish a 12-0 lead in the first quarter that they never lost.
He ran for 66 yards and threw for 154 yards and two touchdowns. His 50-yard touchdown pass to Ejani Shakir put Pennsauken ahead 32-6 in the fourth quarter.
For Paul VI, the game was the first for new head coach Dennis Scuderi.
Scuderi is back at Paul VI — the place he started his coaching career as an assistant in 1978 — after stints as a head coach at Camden Catholic, and, most recently, at St. Augustine from 2006-’11.
“Our kids played great, they battled hard. We had opportunities to win the game, but we’re young and we made mistakes,” said Scuderi, who said it felt good to be back on the sideline as a head coach.
Though Pennsauken controlled the majority of the game, the future looks promising for Paul VI, particularly with junior quarterback Joe Gledhill running the offense.
Gledhill flashed a strong, accurate arm that kept his team in the game. He threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Drew Williams that made the score 12-6 before halftime. He also hit Wisler Sanon for a 67-yard score after the game was out of reach late in the fourth quarter.
Several big plays by the Pennsauken defense in the second half prevented a Paul VI comeback, including an interception by Brandan Medina-Salas in the red zone in the third quarter. Pennsauken also forced a turnover on downs on its 18-yard-line in the fourth quarter. Then, Pennsauken’s Nasir Williams came up with an interception inside his 10-yard line on Paul VI’s final drive.
Paul VI 0 6 0 7 — 13
Pennsauken 12 0 14 6 — 32
Pe: Aaron Williams 5 run (kick failed)
Pe: Dante Burke 35 pass from Deswa Evans (kick failed)
PVI: Drew Williams 34 pass from Joe Gledhill (kick failed)
Pe: Williams 5 run (Ejani Shakir pass from Evans)
Pe: Williams 29 run (kick failed)
Pe: Shakir 50 pass from Evans (kick failed)