Imagine being a 16-, 17- or 18-year old high school athlete.

You wait your entire season and circle the date where you play your crosstown rival in soccer or field hockey or volleyball, and then the date has finally come. You're so excited, you can't wait to get through school and on the field to take on your biggest rival in the best atmosphere of the year.

There's only one problem.

You get out of school at 2:30 p.m. and your game starts at 7 p.m.

What do you do in the meantime?

You can try to do homework, but that doesn't work too well. You don't want to expend any energy, so exercising is out. Sleep? Pssh. Yeah right.

"I attempted to take a nap," Warde girls soccer senior Taylor Bargmann said. "It didn't work out. I was so excited. People were trying to do homework, but it wasn't working out for them."

The kids can't go home, because they'd get there and be bouncing off the walls at home and head right back. Plus the visiting team has to travel and then warm up.

I don't begrudge the night start time for these games. The whole town gets excited for Ludlowe and Warde and we all want a huge audience at the game. A huge part of the excitement for the game is the fact that there are going to be a huge crowd and we want to enable all of those fans and especially parents to be at the game.

"The hype of the game makes it almost like a circus event," Ludlowe girls soccer coach Tony Samuelian said.

But these kids have all of this pent up excitement. To wait four hours for the biggest game of their year is a lot.

"I couldn't get any homework done," Warde soccer goal keeper Brielle Lanese said. "Everyone was just so pumped up. All day."

How teams harness this excitement and how these kids manage their nerves is a big deal. The games are only going to get bigger and with that comes a lot of down time.

I remember not sleeping the night before my high school football team had to play in the state championship game and just trying to do anything to kill time before the game. These kids have to do this for their town rivalry game and then any subsequent huge game. The more they have practice in dealing with downtime the better they'll be able to handle those big games and any anxiety that goes along with it.

After all, playoff and rivalry games are pretty exciting, especially to 16- through 18-year olds.

FOOTBALL PICKS

Thanks to the Fairfield Warde football team, I had a 2-0 week last week. The Mustangs found a way to eke out a 41-40 win over Trinity Catholic in crazy fashion. Ludlowe fell to 0-6 with a 42-14 loss to McMahon.

On to the week seven picks.

Ludlowe (0-6) at Staples (6-0), Staples Stadium, 10 a.m. Yikes. Pick: Staples 48, Ludlowe 0.

Warde (3-3) at St. Joseph (4-2), 1:30 p.m. I must give Warde credit. The Mustangs were staring another gutwrenching loss in the face and found a way to make a play. That's a win that could boost the squad and give it momentum toward the end of the year. However, Tyler Matakevich is back for the Cadets and St. Joe's has quietly won three straight. It'll be closer than usual, but...Pick: St. Joseph 30, Warde 24.

Last week: 2-0; Year-to-Date: 10-3.