CHICAGO HEIGHTS | It was suggested to Dave Mattio that Friday evening's meteorological fireworks were God's way of saying he didn't want anyone else coaching at Marian Catholic.
Mattio, wrangling two coaches and an officiating crew while trying to pin down the details of the Chicago Heights Fire Department's lightning tracking capabilities in his capacity as athletic director, was unamused.
"That is not the case," he said.
Regardless, thanks to a thunderstorm that arrived half an hour before the scheduled 7:15 p.m. kickoff between Marian and Hyde Park, the first sideline appearance in 38 years by a Spartans coach other than Mattio was put off a day. Marian and Hyde Park was rescheduled for 6 p.m. today.
Mattio's successor, Jerry Verde, might coach another 37 years — he'd be 73, and the year would be 2050 for those of you scoring at home — and never forget this opener that wasn't.
"It was memorable, that's for sure," he said. "We were already on the field when the wind switched directions and the yard markers started flying all over the place."
Marian's players cleared the field at roughly 6:35. Hyde Park's buses rolled into the parking lot at 6:40. Five minutes later, the heavens opened.
The game was called shortly after 8 p.m. IHSA rules stipulate that play can begin no sooner than half an hour after lightning has left the area, and at that juncture it had not.
"We'll just have to get it done (Saturday)," Verde said. "The nice thing is, it's the first game. It's going to be a little disheveled anyway.
"You can't throw anyone off their routine, because there is no routine yet."
Verde professed no nerves about his return to the Marian sidelines, where he was a linebacker on Mattio's 1993 state champs.
"It really is just a game," he said. "The guys are prepared."
Moreso, perhaps, than Verde was when he took the reins at Crete-Monee for the 2007 season.
"I know a lot more now — I'm much more prepared," Verde said. "My first game at Crete-Monee — let's just say you don't know what you don't know."
Six years later, and with no losing seasons, Verde would leave with the 2012 Class 6A state title and an .800 winning percentage under his belt. That's better than even the .640 clip Mattio posted while going 251-141 over his tenure.
But can he keep it up for 37 years?
"I don't think that'll happen," he said.