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Town Jug game makes triumphant return to Friday night

Larkin's David Dudgives Royals fans an up-close view Town Jug after Friday's 40-12 victory against ElgMemorial Field. | Andrew A.

Larkin's David Duda gives Royals fans an up-close view of the Town Jug after Friday's 40-12 victory against Elgin at Memorial Field. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 16, 2012 9:45PM

As if to remind everyone where the Town Jug will be staying for a second straight year, Larkin players and fans spontaneously began chanting “West side” after Friday night’s 40-12 victory against Elgin.

The postgame celebration put an exclamation point on what was a dominant performance for the Royals in the annual showdown between the crosstown rivals at Memorial Field. More important than the outcome, however, were the overall good vibes that came from the Town Jug game’s return to Friday night for the first time in a decade.

Safety concerns were what prompted the game to be moved from Friday night to Saturday afternoon back in 2003. The decision stemmed from an incident that took place near the south end zone at Memorial Field during a Friday night contest in 2002 when a large group of people refused to move when asked by police. Though no arrests were made, the mass of people involved was enough to take fans’ attention away from the game.

This past summer administrators at the two schools decided the time had come to move the Town Jug game back to high school football’s traditional showcase night, and thus the teams kicked off at 7:30 on a chilly late-summer night.

For all intents and purposes, the return to Friday night was a major success.

The stands on both sides of the field were full in what was the largest turnout for a Town Jug game in recent memory. Rowdy student sections only added to an electric atmosphere befitting a clash between longtime high school football rivals.

“This was unbelievable,” Larkin senior Adam Hamiel. “I’ve been dreaming about having this on a Friday night since I was a freshman. Playing on a Saturday just ain’t the same as the Friday night lights.”

A reminder of the legitimate safety concerns that prompted the Town Jug game to be played in daylight for 10 years came last Friday night during a scary incident at Chicago’s Gately Stadium.

With Simeon and Morgan Park in action on the field, a fight broke out in the stands and one person was stabbed. Several people in attendance reported hearing gun shots, and the game had to be halted and completed Sunday afternoon.

There were no such problems at Memorial Field thanks to the efforts of school and security officials.

Fans from Elgin and Larkin had separate entrances and separate concession stands in an effort to minimize the chance of a conflict. Larkin athletic director Chris Neibch gave particular thanks to the Elgin School District U46 grounds crew for helping the night go off without a hitch.

“We thought everything went well and we were happy the game was back on a Friday night,” Neibch said. “I know we worked pretty hard on this for a long time. It took a lot of planning and everybody just did a good job working together.”

For longtime high school football fans in Elgin, the Town Jug game’s return to Friday night brought back memories of the old days when a gridiron showdown between the Maroons and Royals was a major event in town.

Larkin senior lineman Alex Schabert has particularly strong ties to the rivalry. Several members of his family have been high-profile coaches and players for the Royals through the years, including his grandfather Terry Schabert, who remains an assistant coach at Larkin.

For Alex Schabert, the chance to play in the Town Jug game under the lights and help extend Larkin’s all-time lead in the series against Elgin to 32-19 was something he will cherish.

“The last time they played for the Jug on a Friday my grandpa was coaching and I was like seven years old,” Alex Schabert said. “Larkin won it and afterwards I got to go down on the field and all the offensive linemen picked me up and I got to carry the Jug. So coming back here, it felt like I was a kid again.”

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