Sparks were flying long before the Liberty Flames took to the field for their Homecoming football game Saturday, Oct. 15. The fervor, fanfare and fire shown by students and alumni at the game may have, for many, begun at the Homecoming bonfire the night before.
On Friday, Oct. 14, hundreds of students and alumni gathered in the Evans parking lot to watch planks of wood several meters high be set ablaze to the beat of drums, the tune of rock music blaring out of speakers and the cheering of the crowd. Before this traditional bonfire took place, Liberty football Head Coach Danny Rocco set the tone for the rest of the evening and let the crowd in on the intentions of the football team. As Rocco stepped out onto the stage, the audience cheered and spoke to one another in animated tones, seemingly oblivious to the chilly night air.
“This is really exciting,” Rocco began, echoing the energy set forth by the fans. “We’ve got an opportunity tomorrow to continue our quest. We’re on a quest here for our fifth consecutive Big South Conference championship. We certainly look forward to you all being there tomorrow and making as much noise as you possibly can, and we’re really excited,” Rocco said.
Rocco’s speech was followed by the words of several key football players. Each of them encouraged the enthusiasm of the crowd in their own ways.
“Let me here ya’ say, ‘Yeah!’” running back Sirchauncey Holloway shouted into the microphone, followed by a wholehearted, “Yeah!” from the fans.
“When I say ‘Knock, knock’ you say ‘Bang, Bang!’ Knock, knock…” said all-American quarterback Mike Brown.
“Bang, bang!” shouted his crowd with no hesitance.
Sandwiched in between these players was defensive lineman Frances Bah, who offered his quick speech in his native language of German. If the language baffled the audience the only sign they showed was laughter, and they cheered Bah on with the same ardor as they did the players who spoke before him.
The speeches soon ended but the shouts, applause and anticipation refused to die out. The crowd followed Rocco as he carried a burning torch toward the untouched wood planks that had been piled high for the occasion, and students continued to play off of each other’s liveliness.
The fire took its time getting started but reached its full potential within minutes, spitting out sparks at any person standing on the wrong side of the wind and just a little too close.
Liberty students roasted marshmallows around little campfires and kept a sense of humor and hope for the team in the air.
Liberty senior Michelle Orange said the bonfire is a way for people to bond in a Liberty approved way.
“I think it’s a really good bonding experience for kids because a lot of schools don’t get to do fun things like this, and it’s just a good alternative to other things going on Friday night that aren’t the Liberty Way,” Orange said.
Sophomore Brien Sabella agrees that the experience is one that brings people together … but maybe for a different reason. “Well, you get a lot of students out here and it’s pretty cool. Everyone likes to see things on fire,” Sabella said.
Sabella echoed the general consensus and hopes of the loyal fans in concerns to Liberty’s chances over Coastal Carolina. “We’ll beat ‘em,” Sabella said.
Whether it’s thanks to events like the bonfire and student morale, raw talent or divine intervention, “beat ‘em” they did.