When Dodger Nation arrives at Kean University on Saturday morning to cheer Madison High School's undefeated football team in its bid for a third consecutive state championship, the time of day will be different from the last two years.
The final against Mountain Lakes starts at 10 a.m. Saturday as opposed to on a Friday night. But while the start time is earlier, Dodger Nation rally towels still are being sold in preparation for the game. Madison fans still will gather before the game and usher the team onto the field with the Dodger Walk.
Even the presence of a bagpiper at tailgating festivities is a possibility, said Mike Waresk, a Madison resident who has taken the lead on planning events for Madison's fan base.
"Don't be surprised if you see a Winnebago," he said Tuesday, referring to the so-called Dodger Nation-mobile.
Waresk said a tailgate party also is being planned for after the game because of the earlier start time.
Dodger Nation, which is not any sort of official organization and which Waresk describes as "the Madison fan base coming together in a more unified way" with an email list and Facebook page, said the strong community support aims to bring excitement to the players and team. It also can inspire youth football players, he said.
"It's just part of the experience," he said.
Waresk said there's a lot of talent on Madison's football team, the team is well-coached, and the team's record speaks for itself. The athletes are "very well-grounded and tremendous kids," he said.
Madison fans destined for Kean University on Saturday for the North 2 Group 2 State Final have the opportunity to buy tickets for the game in advance, athletic director Sean Dowling announced Tuesday.
Tickets are on sale at Madison High School in the front lobby from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., and in the athletic office from 3 to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Friday. The cost is $5.50 for adults and $2 for students and senior citizens.
Tickets also can be purchased at Kean the day of the game.
Correction: A previous version of this story spelled Mike Waresk's name incorrectly.