BY BRIAN FEES

When the lights clicked on at a Mansfield University football game for the first time in 121 years, it marked the start of a new era for MU sprint football.

The coaching staff and many of the players might be back from last year, but the bar has been risen at Mansfield.

The Mountaineers now have a state of the art turf field and lights. They drew a sprint football record crowd of over 6,000 people in week one and they know that all eyes are now on them.

"It's definitely pretty cool," Sayre graduate Josh Stone said. "You don't always get to experience this big of a turnout. I loved it, it's a cool experience."

"That was amazing," said Canton graduate Eddie Larcom. "I don't think any of us have played in front of a crowd that big. There was nothing like it."

"It was just awesome playing out here," fellow Canton grad Ben Pepper said.

For many high school players getting out under the lights is something they are used to. For Towanda grad Casey Huff the turf field is something else he is used to after playing on one in high school.

"It was fun, it was a good environment," he said. "It's back to normal for me."

And, playing in front of big crowds, on a nice new field is something that is motivating the players to want to play well.

"It's cool to do a good job in front of the big crowd," Stone said.

The future of Mansfield football includes plenty of local players as senior Stone, sophomores Huff and Pepper and freshman Larcom all start.

The roster also includes freshmen Cody Ketter (Sayre), Kyle Palumbo (Waverly) and Derrik Burd (North Penn) and sophomore Seth Bechtel (Wellsboro).

For the freshmen this year is a big learning experience.

"It's an all new experience," Larcom said. "It's a lot to get used to."

With the new facility the players hope that a lot of the people who came to the opener will be back at future games and hopefully it can lead to big-time recruits in the future.

"It's always nice to get that many people out, hopefully we get a lot of people to continue to come out to games," Pepper said.

The opener was aired on a number of local networks and it also aired nationally online on ESPN3.

For the players the hope is that it leads to more people understanding what sprint football is.

"It is great that a whole lot of people were watching it," Larcom said.

"Now maybe people see it's just like regular football," Huff said. "They know what it's all about now and hopefully it gets more people interested."

"It will be great if this gets the word out there about the team more," Stone said.

While stone is one of the team's seniors, the experience of the opener was special to him.

Watching a crowd of former players line the field gives him an idea of the love for the school that the alumni feel.

"I will love to come back and be able to watch them play and be a part of this still," Stone said.