By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — The bleachers were unmistakably filled with Silver Warriors at Niskayuna varsity football’s season home opener Friday. In between railings decorated with red streamers, the benches were filled with friends, family and fans of the players on the field.
“It’s a small team with a big heart and a big spirit,” said Carol Perrin, who showed up early to settle in before the game. Her enthusiastic cheers and shouts of encouragement for her son, Mike Perrin, were audible across the bleachers and probably onto the field.
“He’s been playing Pop Warner since he was 5,” she said proudly.
The team, mostly juniors, moved down a class this year in the hope of a more competitive season. Perrin was unfazed by the change.
“I think they have a lot of spirit,” she said.
Most of the seats were filled with friends and family, eyes glued to their favorite players. Nancy and John Eramo were obviously seasoned fans, who arrived early with blankets and portable stadium chairs.
“I’ve watched my son play, and now I watch my grandson play,” said Nancy Eramo, whose vision was locked on Niskayuna’s #80, DJ Endres.
Her husband, John Eramo, was equally proud, and determined to see the season to its end.
“If I can stay warm, I’m here,” he said.
If the greatest amount of energy that night was on the field, the student cheering section for Niskayuna held a close second.
Angela Grant stood in the front of the crowd alongside her friend Morgan Richards, both waving homemade signs. Grant was also there to cheer on Endres, her boyfriend.
Grant said she was there to “support him and show him that I actually care,” although whether she really cared probably wasn’t in question, since she traveled all the way to Queensbury to cheer at the previous game.
Richards cheered for longtime friend Christian Szakats. Despite the chill already present in the air so early in the season, she, too, planned to be there till the bitter end.
“Me and her, we’re going to try to go to them all,” she said. “We’ll see what they can do.”
Annelise McGuigan was there to support friends, too — on and off the field.
“My friend is playing, and my best friend sang the national anthem,” she said.
Her shocking red hair suggested she might be the most hardcore fan in the bleachers.
“That’s actually a complete coincidence,” she said, laughing. But she still planned to see the game through.
“I love football,” she said.
McGuigan wasn’t the only one there for the love of the game. Two-year-old Brayden Middleton, dressed in a tiny T-shirt that declared him a “Little Warrior,” was glued to the sight of high school students racing back and forth across the field.
His father, Albany resident Joel Middleton, had just planned to stop by for a few minutes. His mother-in-law works at the high school.
“I’m an athletic director in Windham and a soccer coach, so I was kind of hoping to get away from school on a Friday night, but he wanted to stay,” he said, holding Brayden steady on the bleachers.
Friday night spectator duty may be a sign of things to come for Middleton.
“Are you going to play football?” he asked his son. “Yeah,” Brayden said shyly.
Linda Borges was there for work and play. As adviser of the Pep Club at the high school, she spent the first half of the game selling 50/50 raffle tickets to support the club’s breast cancer walk.
Borges, who has been a special education teacher at Niskayuna High School for 17 years, was decked out in head-to-toe Warrior gear.
“I’m seeing a revival in the kids getting interested in the spirit of the school,” she said proudly, which is important, she explained, because it builds community.
“I see the kids needing something more to believe in than selfies and whatever’s in the latest magazine,” she said.