Friday Night Darkness
The nationwide debate about the safety of football collides with reality in a small Arkansas town.
Illustrations by Dan Zettwoch
Head football coach Randy Phillips slept in the office his first week at Lafayette County High School. Spring 2012 practice was underway, and Phillips had driven down from Lonoke High near Little Rock, where he was finishing out the year as an assistant coach. A mattress in the field house wasn’t exactly four-star accommodations, but you couldn’t beat the commute.
A fit and athletic thirty-four-year-old, Phillips was able to adapt to the sleeping conditions easily enough. And Lake June, known locally as The Pond, was not much more than a Hail Mary’s toss from the stadium. Fishing gave Phillips a diversion in the mornings. Nights he might make a late supper of a burrito from the nearby filling station. After that he would talk to his wife by cell phone until The Pond’s mosquitoes chased him inside the cinder-block walls of the field house, where cell service dropped like a wet ball.
No one said it was a glamorous gig. Lafayette County was not a Friday Night L…