Demons excited for long-awaited home opener

William Hooper knows all too well about waiting for an extended period of time between Northwestern State home football games.

A fifth-year senior cornerback, Hooper saw his career put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic that kept the Demons from playing home games for 472 days between the Nov. 21, 2019, season finale and the March 6, 2021, spring season opener.

“One experience I remember is our first spring game, going out of the purple smoke,” he said. “We were ready to be on the field. It had been so long. Being able to be back out there with my brothers, I can’t wait.”

Hooper and the Demons (0-3) will end another wait at 3:30 p.m. Saturday when they face Lamar (0-3) in a game that will double as NSU’s home and Southland Conference opener.

Saturday’s game will be a Purple Out and will be part of Family Day, which will include an 11:30 a.m. concert by country music recording artist Danielle Bradbery on the tailgate field.

For Hooper, Saturday will mark his last first game in Turpin Stadium while simultaneously ending a five-game road swing for the Demons dating to the final two games of the 2021 season. That two-game road swing, coupled with the latest NSU home opener since 1991, has Northwestern State even more amped up than usual.

“You’re looking at six games since we’ve played our last home game,” fifth-year head coach Brad Laird said. “Not only that, but it’s the opening of conference play. You put both of those together and it makes for a great day.”

Laird long has vocalized his appreciation for running out of the purple smoke that announces the Demons arrival on the Turpin Stadium turf.

That attitude has taken hold of his team, which will emerge from the inflatable Vic the Demon tunnel for the first time since Nov. 6, 2021 – a span of 323 days.

“When the purple smoke goes off, we brace because the bombs are going off,” Hooper said. “I’ll always remember that. It’s been a great experience, and I can’t wait to run out of it again.”

When Hooper and his teammates emerge from that tunnel, they will do so ready to play their first game on the new playing surface, which was laid down this summer.

“The turf is a great benefit to us,” Hooper said. “The past couple of weeks, the turf has been rough. It’s comfortable here. We’re used to it.”

While the Demons have become familiar with the new turf in Turpin, practicing on it since fall camp in August, there has been something missing – which changes Saturday.

“We practice at Turpin every day, and we have a feel for it, but it’s different when the crowd is there,” Hooper said. “It feels like a very long time since we played at home, so it’s good to get back in front of the home crowd.”