SHORT GAP - The West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission has put out a plea for schools throughout the Mountain State to light up their Friday Night Lights on May 1 to honor seniors in the graduating class of 2020.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
SHORT GAP - The West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission has put out a plea for schools throughout the Mountain State to light up their Friday Night Lights on May 1 to honor seniors in the graduating class of 2020.  
The effort, dubbed “Shine for WV Seniors 2020,” shows support for the group most impacted scholastically by the covid-19 crisis, as they lose their senior spring sports season entirely, along with the chance to spend time with and say final farewells to classmates.
While with good-spirited efforts like this there certainly isn’t a competition, the folks at Frankfort High School, in an effort spear-headed by the Frankfort Athletic Boosters Club, have beat the WVSSAC to the punch.
On April 20, at 20:20 hours and for 20 minutes, the Friday Night Lights of Falcon Stadium were illuminated in the night sky to honor Frankfort’s graduating class of 2020.  
According to Booster Club president Melissa Clark, “I wanted to do it on the 20th at 20:20 for 20 minutes so we had all the 20 references.”
While the idea is being widely circulated on the Internet now, the idea came to Frankfort from alum Denise Mantheiy.  “Denise had seen that the town nearby where she used to live in Ohio had done it so she sent me the article about it, which of course set the wheels in motion,” Clark explained.
From that point, Clark contacted Frankfort athletic director Jay Hesse and head football coach Kevin Whiteman and asked if they would help.  Both of course were eager to help and Hesse gained permission from Frankfort principal Joe Riley, who gave permission and support for the idea.  
While the act of simply flipping on the lights is easy, one very important thing remained before it could happen.
“We couldn’t have the field lit without the big F in the middle.  That big Columbia Blue F stands out and screams Frankfort.  I thought it was a nice idea from Denise and Missy to honor the seniors. I was honored to paint the field for all of the seniors.  They are a special group of kids and our school is certainly going to miss them,” Coach Whiteman stated.
Whiteman, in addition to being head coach, is sort of the chief cook and bottle washer for Frankfort’s football program and one of his specialties, one he pours his heart and soul into, is being a caretaker for the playing surface at Falcon Stadium.  
“It was really just to show solidarity for the class of 2020. This is a fantastic group of individuals at FHS. They’ve had a rough and abrupt end to the school year. It was a way to show them that we as a community love them, are proud of them, and are behind them. These kids were born when we were all dealing with 9/11 and now this. They’ve lived during all kinds of crazy times. They will all persevere,” Clark stated.
According to Clark, “As seniors it stinks they can’t finish activities and sports, and they won’t get to do the traditional things that most seniors get to.  But it’s what makes them unique too.”
Booster Club president Clark, Athletic Director Hesse, and Coach Whiteman were all present for the 20 minutes of light illumination, but they weren’t alone. They were joined by Frankfort alum Dutch Staggs, who was on hand offering the services of his drone to acquire footage to commemorate and display the event to the public.
“Dutch saw us discussing it on Facebook and messaged me and offered to come use his drone, which was a super idea. He got some great footage and after receiving the fight song from another alum Al Hall, Dutch put our video together,” Clark stated.
According to Staggs, “I saw a post that Missy was involved in about turning on the lights. I have been doing videos for the drive-in services at Mount Zion Church and thought it would be a good idea to do the same thing for this. That way everyone could see it and it would be a different view for everyone.”
Make no mistake about it, this was an effort to honor all Frankfort seniors and it is an idea that will be duplicated throughout the state and country to honor seniors everywhere.  There is certainly a tie-in and connection to those seniors that can be described as student-athletes as well. The Friday Night Lights are the ultimate symbol of the community and sports world coming together.
These are tough times for everyone, and particularly tough for all students and parents, but particularly for senior students and parents who have now lost out on those precious last days of high school. They will persevere and overcome, however. In fact, it’s often true that adversity sparks greatness in people.
For 20 minutes at least, at 20:20 on April 20, these seniors were figuratively in the spotlight, being honored for what they’ve accomplished already. The light also symbolized for them where they can forever look for help, guidance and support, to a school and community that will forever have their back.