It was a year to cement a new tradition, with tailgating outside Jack Groce Stadium replacing the annual homecoming parade on King Street.
Senior Silas Keeter, a student council member who helped coordinate the tailgate, said he was pleased with turnout for the second annual event, which included games, booths from student clubs, live music by several WHS students and Bandana's barbecue.
"It lets everybody see something in common," Keeter said of the homecoming tradition.
The tailgating was followed Friday by the Pioneers' first conference matchup, against St. Stephens in Hickory.
Watauga County Board of Education member Ron Henries stopped by the tailgating, but for him, homecoming was all about what happened on the turf.
Henries said he attended his first Watauga High School football game in 1969, when the Pioneers still played on the Appalachian State University campus. He hasn't missed many since -- home or away.
"It's Friday night," Henries said. "Where else would anyone want to be?"