For the first time in the celebrated rivalry, the M&M football game will be played at night. We don’t have a problem with that.

The 113th edition of the contest between the Marinette and Menominee high school football teams will kick off at 7 p.m. Aug. 30. The game traditionally has been played in the afternoon, usually on a Saturday (In the early years it was played on Thanksgiving and then Armistice Day).

Both head coaches, when contacted by the EagleHerald, say playing the game on Friday night is a good move. They point out that it will be much cooler at night and that high school football is meant to be played on Friday night.

“Friday is high school football. Plus, it’s pretty easy to predict that the weather is going to be hot toward the end of August on Saturday afternoon,” Menominee coach Joe Noha said. He added that the cooler weather is safer, not only for the players, but the fans.

First-year Marinette coach Nate Anderson agreed saying, “High school football is Friday night under the lights and it’s going to be exciting.”

Both these men are extremely knowledgeable about football and have solid backgrounds. Both were high school and college standouts (Noha at Menominee and Saginaw Valley State University; Anderson at Marinette and University of Wisconsin-River Falls). We respect their opinions.

Some purists might say the game belongs on a Saturday afternoon. We disagree for the reasons already mentioned.

Sure, alumni and other spectators who travel from out of town for the game will have to adjust their plans. And those who work on Friday night may need to take a vacation or personal day.

The M&M game still is a very big deal, but unfortunately, it seems, the game has lost just a little bit of its luster. For decades, the M&M game was a grand, weeklong event. Float meetings throughout the week, followed by a parade, the game and then a dance.

This game was their version of the Super Bowl for the young men who played. No doubt some fans probably felt that way, too.

Then the high school playoffs came along. We remember one Menominee team in the late 1980s that had to vote whether to go to the playoffs or square off with rival Marinette. The Maroons chose the playoffs. We’re guessing the “vote” matched the desire of the coaching staff.

For six straight years in the 1990s there was no M&M game. That wasn’t any fun.

The rivalry was reborn in 1999 when Marinette defeated Menominee 32-25 in a thrilling game played in front of 6,803 fans. It was the largest crowd since 1951 as fans of both teams couldn’t wait to see the two schools clash. The attendance has not come close to that mark in the past 20 years.

Conference realignment also has taken a toll. Marinette, once a pillar of the Bay Conference, has had some conference juggling. This has created scheduling conflicts and forced the M&M game to be played during the Marines’ lone non-league date — lately the second week of the season in Wisconsin (the first week in Michigan).

For many years, the M&M game was the last game of the season for both teams. In that respect, fans knew exactly how strong each team was and if there was a clear-cut favorite. In recent years, this game has been the opener for Menominee with Marinette having one game under its belt. High school rosters obviously change from year-to-year so picking a favorite that early in the season is dicey. 

The bottom line is that things change. School enrollment is down nearly everywhere and football participation is decreasing in many areas.

The M&M began 125 years ago when the game was played on a chilly Thanksgiving afternoon in 1894.

This grand game may not be the huge spectacle it once was, but we still think it’s a must-see event. The M&M game on a Friday night, under the lights at Walton Blesch Field is cool. That change might inject a shot of adrenaline into this storied rivalry.

To paraphrase the catch phrase from Monday Night Football, we ask: Are you ready for some Friday night M&M game football? We certainly are.