Bartow High School football fans can be forgiven if they cast an anxious eye to the skies on Friday night, but this time, they will be doing it from the friendly confines of Bartow Memorial Stadium.
After three weeks of the schedule, the Yellow Jackets will finally get the chance to play at their home field.
Weather has played a factor in each of the two scheduled regular season games as well as the pre-season contest at Frostproof. The Kickoff Classic was called with eight minutes to play due to lightning in the area. The season opener at Auburndale was delayed at the start due to lightning. Last week's scheduled game at Lake Gibson was canceled due to the continual degrading of weather and forecast for the pattern to continue into the night.
Despite the annoying weather, Bartow has picked up wins in the pre-season and regular season opener and will seek to regain lost momentum from the cancellation. The opponent will be Lake Region, who defeated Auburndale last week to move their regular season record to 2-0. The Thunder nipped DeSoto County in the opener, but lost to Fort Meade in the pre-season contest.
Bartow will seek to capitalize on the home field advantage and the home crowd in an important game. The Jackets have shown great poise on the road and five of the next eight scheduled games will be at Bartow. Last season, Bartow won two of their five home games, but the three losses were by no more than four points, meaning the home team was in the game until the end. This year, the idea will be to prevent the situation of trailing, which will keep the crowd interested and involved.
Like Bartow, the visitors are led by a new head coach, but, like Bartow, the coach is not unfamiliar with the program. Coach Randy Howze was involved in the initial formation of Thunder football and has returned to lead his team to greater achievements. Lake Region has shown the ability to put points on the board, averaging more than 20 through the first two games.
The downside for Thunder fans could be the ability of opponents to do the same as all games (including the pre-season) were decided by 7 points or fewer.
Bartow's opening game saw four players score touchdowns, indicating the balance of attack will keep the Thunder on their toes as Bartow will attempt to showcase their talents to the home crowd.
The Friday game will also feature the reunion of the 1977 championship team at halftime.
Kickoff is 7 p.m.