Friday Night Lights held in Sparta

Annual event supports community, youth sports


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— The Sparta Spartans Youth Football and Cheerleading Organization hosted it’s annual “Friday Night Lights for Life” event at Ungermann Field.

This year, the program honored local hero’s serving with the fire department. Three divisions Supers, Lites and Midgets, from Sparta and Lenape played under the lights and were on-hand to support the community event.

In attendance at this event were high ranking officials from the Sparta Fire Department, Mayor Molly Ann Whilesmith, Members of the Sparta Township Council, and special guest Superbowl Champion Roman Oben.

“The fact the NFL great, Super Bowl champion, and former New York Giant, Roman Oben comes out each year in support of our program, and this event is amazing. In lieu of his extremely demanding schedule, he always makes time to come and speak to and inspire our children. He is both an inspiration and a great role model,” said Josh Hertzberg, President of Spartans Youth Football and Cheerleading.

The Spartans added this fundraising event to their existing community event line-up several years ago. The event was inspired after a Spartans team trip to the Rutgers and Army game several years back.

What began as a fun team trip, soon turned tragic as they witnessed former Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand sustain a hit that would leave him paralyzed from the neck down.

The Spartans wanted to do something to help. The first annual Friday Night Lights for Life event was held, with all proceeds going to the Eric LeGrand fund.

Since that day the Friday Night Lights for Life event has become a staple event within the organization.

“I grew up in Sparta, and played football in this program. It’s great to see that the program has stayed true to its core values and place within the community. Looking around, there are so many other coaches within our program that also participated as kids. These core values are a big reason why everyone comes back year after year, generation after generation,” said Ron Quinn, vice president, Spartans Youth Football and Cheerleading.

“It truly is a special community that comes together, the way we always do, for events like this. But events like this take a tremendous amount of coordination and work to be successful. We are very lucky to have an amazing group of people who are willing to put that work in, so that all of our families can enjoy events like these.” Hertzberg said.

Parent Natalie Takacs said she was overwhelmed by the event.

"It was a wonderful event that unified the Sparta football program from the littlest flag players and cheerleaders to the high school player and cheerleaders who came back to support the program that they participated in. It was exciting to see my son's team lead the Pledge of Allegiance with NFL football great Roman Oben and to see the admiration on their faces as he greeted them. The huge crowd out in support of the football players and cheerleaders as they honored their hometown heroes on the Sparta Volunteer fire department was overwhelming," Takacs said.

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