I have, throughout my entire career, used flash units when covering nighttime football games. It has always been a necessity. High School planners seem to think that having lights on the field for a sporting event is somehow a crime, and they want to keep the fields (and gyms) as dark as possible. Or, perhaps they just enjoy tormenting photographers...
Over the last few years cameras have improved a LOT. The Nikon D200 that I have just retired (beyond economic repair....) maxed out at 1600 ISO. The same with my Nikon D2H and my D80. I did buy a Nikon D7000 and it has the ability to go to 6400 ISO, but I never really pushed it to see if it would work. After all, why gamble with the shots and risk having wasted my time. Everybody knows that high ISO images get so grainy/noisy that they look out of focus, and I shoot with two cameras, so since I was strobing with the D200 I also strobed with the D7000.
Tonight I shot with a new camera. I got a really great deal on a Nikon D7100 (look for factory refurbished if you are low on cash and don't want to gamble on used gear). I had the strobes in the bag, but since it was dusk, and not quite dark enough for the flash units I pushed the ISO on both of the cameras and kept shooting with available light.
Soon it was full on night, and I had ramped my cameras all the way up to ISO 6400, shooting at 1/500 second and f/3.2. I zoomed in on the camera screen and the images actually looked usable. Noisy, but usable. I decided to keep shooting.
Now back home I uploaded and did an initial edit. The photos have noise all over, but using my old, secret weapon, Imagenomic's Noiseware, I got the images to look pretty good. I still prefer shooting daytime sports, but it is nice to see I can shoot a sequence and not have to worry about the batteries on the flash depleting just as the key moment arrives.
As for the game itself, even though they were still banged and bruised from Saturday afternoon's game against St. Pious the Patriots showed some solid playing. They charged out of the locker room to start the 3rd quarter by scoring 14 points in under a minute, including a 94 yard TD run on the first play by AJ Starkovich. It wasn't enough though as they lost 49-31.