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I have been covering high school football at games all over Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma and I thought i had seen everything. I hadn't.

In the second half of the Homecoming game Friday, I had never seen so many moths gathered in one place in my life. I have never seen all that many bugs invade Pea Ridge stadiums, even tough the bright lights are a come on for flying insects to assemble.

In eastern or southern Arkansas, at night, football fields often look like they are lit by clouds on sticks with the huge swarms of flying bugs. I saw a video posted by my nephew who daughter was a cheerleader for a Norman junior high in the Oklahoma City area. The cheerleaders spent more time swatting mosquitoes than doing anything else and it was said that the big increase in rain and precipitation has led to a sizable uptick in the insect population.

But around northwest Arkansas, swarms of bugs at ball games are the exception rather than the rule. Hurrah for press boxes.

An area sports writer had a theory that the homecoming halftime fireworks display may have stirred up the swarm of moths who may have been migrating south when they stopped for the evening at Pea Ridge. Here's hoping they keep going, maybe making Louisiana before the 'Hawks play Gravette this Friday.

Speaking of Homecoming, I found out that very few people know what homecoming is, or at least the history if it. I asked my classes last week what homecoming was, and the most popular answer is "the day the football team comes home."

When I pointed out that the football team actually lives here and hasn't left home yet, finally a student asked me "who is coming home, then?"

While I have known for most of my life that homecoming is when alumni of the school having the homecoming show up for the game and the variety of activities that go with it. As an undergraduate at Harding University, the campus was always awash with posters telling the various members of the various graduating classes of the past, where to go to see their fellow grads on Homecoming weekend.

However, at least on the high school level, I have not heard of classes gathering on those Homecoming weekends for many, many years. Most classes from the past, like my Class of 1971, have their meetings on summer weekends or maybe early fall, but never having it coincide with a football game.

You might ask -- who started homecoming games to begin with. There are three colleges who lay claim to that distinction.

The first was Baylor University, who held a Good Will Week back in 1909, which culminated with a football game at the week's end. At the game, the current seniors were in attendance wearing their caps and gowns, and graduates of Baylor were encouraged to attend the week's festivities to renew old acquaintances. However, it did not become an annual affair until years later.

The next year, 1910, two students at the University of Illinois organized a rally to boost the support in their annual rivalry with the University of Chicago. They encouraged past graduates to come to the game to support the team in numbers and it was a sort if homecoming but not really embraced by the school officially.

The school that is the most recognized one for starting homecoming was the University of Missouri in Columbia. It was 1911, and Tiger athletic director Chester Brewer decided to push the idea of getting alumni to come to Missouri and help dedicate the school's first season in their new football field on the south campus. They called the game against arch rival Kansas, a Homecoming game, and the idea was a big success. Record crowds turned out every year for the game, and soon, other colleges and high schools across the country began adopting the tradition.

Coach Brewer did a lot to boost athletics at the University of Missouri, but he left his job to volunteer to serve in the American Expeditionary Force that went to fight in World War 1 in 1917. After the war, he spent some time coaching at other schools until getting the chance to come back to Missouri in 1923 where he became the athletic director and track coach.

In 1929, he pushed for and got built, a fieldhouse that later became known as Brewer Fieldhouse. It was a combination basketball and track facility. It was like a giant garage.

I was a sophomore in high school when I got to experience indoor track for the first time at Brewer. it was the only indoor track in Missouri and it was where we had state meets each March.

Going to the Arkansas state indoor meets in Fayetteville is fun, with the banked mondo track surfaces, and expansive spaces inside the building. In 1969, the only indoor track in Missouri was a dirt floor running 220 yards against three sides of the rather tall building with one "curve" running through a hallway under the stands. When I say curve, I mean where the track changes directions. In reality, the track at Brewer was two long straightaways and two short straightaways.

The year after I graduated in 1971, the fieldhouse was repurposed for student intramural athletics with the university basketball and track teams getting more modern venues. I kind of liked Brewer as it favored runners with short strides as was mine. I ran leadoff for three years, and the lead off runners had to stay in lanes all the way, tough to do for most runners. I always got the lead with my short stride and ability to really lean on the curves.

State rankings get a bit jumbled

The new No. 1 4A state top-ranked team is defending state champion Rivercrest who really isn't a defending state champion.

Rivercrest won the 3A state crown last season and is now ranked No. 1 in 4A with Warren dropping down into the third slot. Warren didn't lose but their weaker schedule than the one Rivercrest has has given the nod to the school over in Wilson by the Mississippi River.

Shockingly, the defending state champion Arkadelphia team lost again this week, dropping down to the 23rd-ranked stop with a 0-5 record. They are hands down the highest ranked 0-5 team in the state in any class. They also have by far the toughest schedule of anyone in the state.

Coming off their banner year in 2017 with the bulk of their offensive weapons back, the Badgers' scheduled really tough higher classification teams for their non-conference schedule. They lost all three, two close losses and a blowout to Benton. They then had to open their conference schedule with Nashville (state's No. 4 team) and then Robinson (state's No. 2 team) and they lost both games.

Nashville was a close loss (28-23) but they were swamped by Robinson 42-14. They now have to face rising Bauxite in a month in a likely fight to get at least a No. 3 seed.

The 'Hawks check in at No. 14 after their victory over Lincoln.

The 'Hawks' upcoming opponent Friday is Gravette. Gravette has not won a game this year, falling all the way to 46th place in the rankings, in a 48-team classification.

The Lions have some talented athletes though their numbers are down this year. They have a new system in place after their old coach left after a number of successful seasons. They will be getting better though they may have some hard times first.

The 'Hawks have not lost a game at Gravette since the 2010 season. Strangely enough, though they have owned the Gravette field in recent years, last year was the first time in the history of the school that they beat Gravette on their home turf. Win this year, and Pea Ridge will have a school record three game winning streak against the Lions from west county.

MaxPreps/CBS State

4A football poll

1.^Rivercrest^5-0

2.^Robinson^4-1

3.^Warren^5-0

4.^Nashville^5-0

5.^Bauxite^5-0

6.^Dumas^5-0

7.^Dardanelle^5-0

8.^Stuttgart^3-2

9.^Shiloh^4-1

10.^West Helena^4-1

11.^Westside^4-1

12.^Gosnell^2-3

13.^Southside^3-2

14.^Pea Ridge^3-2

15.^Harmony Grove^4-1

16.^Hamburg^4-1

17.^Elkins^5-0

18.^Fountain Lake^3-2

19.^Prairie Grove^3-2

20.^Ozark^3-2

21.^Pottsville^2-3

22.^Bald Knob^3-2

23.^Arkadelphia^0-5

24.^Central Arkansas^3-2

25.^Ashdown^2-3

26.^Pocahontas^2-3

27.^Star City^2-3

28.^Lincoln^4-1

29.^Heber Springs^1-4

30.^DeWitt^3-2

31.^Lonoke^2-3

32.^Trumann^2-3

33.^Mena^2-3

34.^Highland^1-4

35.^Crossett^0-4

36.^Malvern^0-5

37.^Cave City^1-4

38.^Gentry^1-4

39.^Waldron^1-4

40.^Riverview^1-4

41.^Dover^1-4

42.^Berryville^2-3

43.^Mills^0-5

44.^Brookland^0-5

45.^Subiaco^1-4

46.^Gravette^0-5

47.^Monticello^0-5

48.^Green Forest^1-4

•••

Editor's note: John McGee, an award-winning columnist, sports writer and art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, writes a regular sports column for The Times. He can be contacted through The Times at prtnews@nwadg.com.

Sports on 10/03/2018

Print Headline: Attack of the moths was unprecedented

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