Friday Night Lights.
Many of the players on Harvard’s football team spent their high school years living for it—the roar of the hometown crowd, the pride in hauling in the winning catch, the simple love of the game.
And though in Ivy League football, the focus is shifted to Saturday afternoons in sparsely-filled stadiums, for one night a year, the Crimson gets to take a trip down memory lane.
“Playing under the lights on Friday night reminds you a lot of high school football,” said Harvard junior quarterback Collier Winters. “It takes you back a little bit.”
On Friday, Harvard took the field for the third annual night game at Harvard Stadium. And for the third time, the Crimson came away with the win.
In 2007, against Brown, Harvard took control with a late first-half touchdown and never looked back, riding out a 24-17 win.
In 2008, with Holy Cross in town for the season opener, the Crimson found itself down, 24-12, with less than 10 minutes to play.
But quarterback Chris Pizzotti ’08-’09 took matters into his own hands, orchestrating two drives to the endzone and taking the ball himself twice to give the home fans a thrilling 25-24 win.
In the vein of last year’s comeback, Friday’s game had some drama of its own. But this time, it was the Bears threatening to erase a 10-point deficit in the game’s final minute.
After Brown’s star receiver Bobby Sewall brought down a touchdown pass with 34 seconds to play, Harvard fumbled away the ensuing onside kick, and a win that had seemed signed, sealed, and delivered just minutes before was suddenly in jeopardy.
On the last three plays of the game, new Bears quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero sought his favorite target—Sewall—at the right side of the endzone, hoping for another miracle touchdown.
But with the home crowd roaring behind it, the Crimson’s secondary held strong, with seniors Ryan Barnes and Jon Takamura batting away the last two passes to preserve the 24-21 victory.
Three games. Three wins. And the common thread?
Perhaps the lights make everything appear clearer to Harvard’s signal callers. Maybe the Crimson defense simply operates better after 7 p.m. But chances are, it probably has a little bit to do with the crowd.
Friday’s attendance was estimated at 17,263—thousands more than come out to any Harvard game against an opponent not from New Haven.