ST. JOHN | Fans know the first football game of the season sets the tone and drive of the weeks that follow on the high school field.
"When you have great weather like tonight to add to the equation, this is a perfect football Friday in Northwest Indiana," said Tony Bartolomeo, Lake Central High School's new athletic director, as he directed fans to their seats for the Lake Central Indians game against the Munster High School Mustangs.
"Tonight is the night when every football fan is ready for their team to shine."
Bartolomeo, a 1994 Merrillville High School graduate, knows the spirit of football fans from around the region.
Before coming to Lake Central, he was assistant principal at Chesterton Middle School, an assistant football coach at Munster High and also has taught and coached at Merrillville and Crown Point high schools.
"Lots of familiar faces tonight and everyone is smiling before the game starts," said Bartolomeo, at 6:50 p.m., just 10 minutes before kickoff with temperatures at a comfortable 67 degrees.
Robin Tobias, the previous athletic director and now the school principal, said there were 4,000 spectators at Friday's Lake Central, Munster game.
Among those waiting patiently in long lines to find seats in the stands were Char and Ken Bermingham, of Dyer, parents of Lake Central senior Jake Bermingham, linebacker No. 33.
"We've got our banner and we're wearing our jerseys," said Char Bermingham, who was helped with the banner by Jake's sister Jordan.
Just steps away, five Mustang sophomores were ready to lead the way for cheers in the stands for Munster fans.
Ginna Fotopoulos, Lauren Koultourides, Jane Sannito, Julianne Rice and Catherine Tavitas, all 15, wore their new matching Mustang T-shirts they purchased earlier at school for $15.
"We want this to be the big win that starts our school year off right," Rice said.