King’s Academy has done it. So has Mills. Now, it’s San Mateo’s turn as the Bearcats football team will get one of those rare Thursday night games that have increased in frequency around the Peninsula, Bay Area and Northern California because of a lack of officials.
San Mateo will host Oakland in a non-league game at 6 p.m. tonight — one that was not initially on the schedule, but came together as both teams had games canceled for one reason or another.
“When we had the cancellation with Half Moon Bay (Sept. 3), I posted we needed a game and this (week) is our (scheduled) bye week,” said San Mateo head coach Jeff Scheller, adding both schools locked in the game Sept. 6.
“They were available.”
As much as everyone wants to see this 2021 fall football season as normal, this week proves it’s anything but. San Mateo is playing a strange team, on a strange day, at a strange time.
“We don’t expect a lot of people (in the stands),” Scheller said. “It’s going to be unique.”
And the ultimate change-up to the routine? The weekly team dinner, which is normally served the night before the game, will not happen this week.
“We do it at school and parents volunteer (to staff it),” Scheller said.
The dinner is for the entire program, including the junior varsity squad. But because the JV has a bye and because the game is Thursday, there will be no on-campus pre-game dinner. Instead, Scheller said, the players on the varsity team are going to do their own thing.
“They’ve got to go find their own dinner, but at least they’re doing it together,” Scheller said.
As much as the coaching staffs for both teams try to keep game preparation as normal as possible, everything has been sped up a day. Scheller said his team will go through their normal Thursday pre-game walk-through on Wednesday — with a little bit of normal Wednesday practice sprinkled in — all while compressing everything.
“We want to keep it short,” Scheller said.
Despite all that, Scheller is relishing the opportunity both teams are getting. It is not lost on him that high school football is supposed to be as much about the experience of preparing for the game as what happens on Friday night … errr … Thursday night.
Looking through that lens, all of this makes perfect sense.
“Does it get me excited? Yeah,” Scheller said. “People are kind of intrigued. We get to play somebody who we’ll probably never play again and we want to give the kids the experience of playing football. It’s a chance to get more experience and get better.”
The game should also provide an opportunity for the Bearcats to improve to 4-0 on the season. They are coming off a 33-7 win over Fremont-Sunnyvale and have outscored their first three opponents, 95-28. Oakland is 0-2, having been outscored 91-14.
But Scheller said the Wildcats like to throw the ball, so he looks at the matchup as an opportunity to practice against a pass-heavy team.
“They throw the ball a lot,” Scheller said. “We know we’re going to see some teams who throw the ball and (playing against a passing team) is good prep for the league.
“Oakland has a gauntlet, too (playing in the Oakland Athletic League), so they’re trying to prepare for that league, as well.”
This will not be the last Thursday night game, either. Menlo-Atherton and Terra Nova are scheduled to become members of the Thursday Night Football Club when they meet Thursday, Oct. 21 in Pacifica.
And who knows? The Bearcats could end up with another Thursday night game later in the season as before Oakland stepped up, San Mateo was facing an eight-game schedule. In addition to having their Week 2 game with Half Moon Bay canceled, the Bearcats have another opening on the schedule in Week 7. That slot opened up when South City shut down its varsity program for the 2021 season.
Scheller is still holding out hope for a 10th regular-season game this year.
“I hope someone needs a game,” Scheller said.
The way this season has gone, don’t rule it out.