I graduated from Prior Lake High School in 1963. I last lived in PL in 1983. I've covered quite a few high school football games in the 30 years since then, but the Lakers never made the itinerary.
The Class of '63 is having its 50th reunion tonight. I decided to take in Friday night's game -- Rosemount at Prior Lake for Homecoming -- to get in the mood.
It could not have been more astounding if I had landed on another planet. I spent one year in the PL school district and graduated with a class of 50. I was told by a member of the PL staff that the current senior class numbers 615 and that the 9 through 12 enrollment is the seventh largest in Minnesota.
The "new'' high school sprawls alongside what used to be the back road out of Prior Lake -- "old 13,'' we still were calling it in 1983.
The high school complex is enormous and, from what I was told, scheduled for another expansion. The football field can be accurately described as a stadium, with a large bleachers and press box on the home side, and another set of sizable bleachers across the way.
I arrived a half-hour before the scheduled 7 p.m. kickoff. Already, you could see from a distance that the home bleachers were full of folks. And there remained a lengthy backup of cars waiting to squeeze into the large main parking lot.
I pulled into a small lot on a rise and a half-mile or so from the stadium. The buzz of anticipation from the assemblage of students and other interested parties could be felt from that distance.
As I reached the main parking lot on foot, I heard and saw the Prior Lake marching band coming down an incline from the school. And the band members kept coming, drum-beating as they went, by the dozens. There were more kids in the marching band than there were in the top four grades when I went to PL.
Students had taken over a large share of the bleachers, ready to stand throughout the game, wearing combinations of the blue and gold. They came off as one huge mass of proud, enthused Lakers.
I also saw some T-shirts reading "The Lake.'' Might have been an organized group or just a slogan, but I loved that: The Lake. That beats the PL that I've always used, and that my friends and family have used.
Of course, it would've seemed kind of silly to call ourselves "The Lake'' 50 years ago, considering the modest athletic achievements of the time. You got to have something to brag about to flaunt that you are "The Lake.''
Prior Lake now finds itself located in Class 6A in football and in the very difficult South Suburban Conference. The Lakers entered this season rated among the metro area's best, but were throttled by Eden Prairie (no surprise) and fell again on Friday night, 24-13, to a more-explosive bunch of Irish from Rosemount.
They did this in front of a crowd of 6,000 (which seemed a conservative estimate to me). Six thousand people at a Prior Lake football game? Amazing.
Leaving my PL and arriving at The Lake ... it couldn't have seemed more unfamiliar than if I had been on a 50-year journey to Neptune.