The battle tonight at Dave Walters Stadium on Homestead Road: Spartans vs. Huntington North Vikings. On the minds of the home team, last year's game tally of Vikings 2, Spartans 0. A Hoosier version of Thermopylae.
A hot August evening and still-bright sunshine mean it's not football weather but here we are anyway.
The steady stream of fans lining up for tickets. Hands reaching for the pile of yellow lineup sheets. To the west the tall home stands are filling with moms and dads and students and alumni. The visitor side is, too. Ready for some football.
Lines already long at the concession stand, popcorn and hot dogs and "Can I have a Coke, please?"
Middle schoolers in the way, full of frenetic energy and new freedom, texting and calling out and laughing and pushing each other into .... each other.
The track full of cheerleaders in blue and gold. Ribboned ponytails and white shoes. The organized, rhythmic cheer that morphs into the excited chatter of three dozen girls. A random cartwheel.
The synthetically green field and symmetric white lines. The tap of the drumline. The big band arranged in blue and black, colorful guard in red uniforms with graceful flags. The racing rendition of the school songs, cheerleaders in motion, fans on their feet.
Sudden stillness, stand-and-remove-your-hat. Movement flash-frozen as the National Anthem rises from the field, notes falling on the stands, the lines, the middle-schoolers, the visitors, the teams waiting to take the field. Soft voices singing of the land-of-the-free, home-of-the-brave.
The spell breaks with the last note and it's all busy and noisy again, and pretty soon the preliminaries will be over. There's a football game to play.