GREENFIELD — As the Greenfield-Central High School football team wrapped up practice Friday night, the players bounced around the field with a spring in their steps.
Only two weeks away from opening night — and seven days from their preseason scrimmage — the enthusiasm was difficult to contain.
Part of their exhilaration stemmed from the upcoming season, but the primary motivator spanned more than 100 yards in length, directly under their feet.
“It’s awesome,” Greenfield-Central head football coach Adam Sherman declared as he surveyed his Cougars’ newly installed FieldTurf surface. “Our school board, our athletic director, our former principal Steve Bryant, our new principal Jason Cary and superintendent Harold Olin, they had a vision. I’ve seen it this week. Our kids have practiced with pride. They respect this. They understand just how special it is to have it.”
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After years of investigating the possibility, numerous discussions and projected plans, now nine months following the Greenfield-Central School board’s approval of the nearly $820,000 construction, the Cougars’ pristine synthetic turf is a reality.
Since July 28, it’s been the No. 1 destination spot on campus, from administrators and coaches to the award-winning marching band and countless student-athletes. During the school’s “Open Field” seven days ago, the reactions by most were the same, said Greenfield-Central athletics director Jared Manning.
“Those of us who walked on it for the initial walk through were extremely pleased with the quality. It’s amazing,” Manning said. “Overall, the workmanship and playability of the surface is very nice.
“Everything inside the track is brand new with the exception of our scoreboard. That’s the only thing that we kept.”
Ohio-based Maumee Bay Turf Center oversaw the project, which took approximately two months to complete. Crews began demolition the first week of June. By the final days of July, the school’s new field was given the green light.
Within hours, the school corporation’s investment already paid dividends.
Heavy rainfall late last week on July 27 flooded the school’s natural surface soccer fields, which in the past would have cost the boys and girls teams valuable preseason training time. With the field’s installation complete and the surface ready for activity, the girls soccer team was able to keep stride without complication.
Scheduled to scrimmage Mooresville on July 28 at home, Manning elected to move the girls soccer exhibition to the FieldTurf, which is outfitted with permanent field lines for both football and soccer.
The Cougars’ girls soccer team not only stayed on schedule, they scored the first goal on the new field — a netter by Lucy Brand.
“This field is a testament to the community, not just football, but everyone. It’s the band and how successful they’ve been. It’s our soccer program, and them winning sectional,” Sherman said. “I like to think we have a little part of it because of what we’re trying to do to stay up with those people who are going to be utilizing it as well. We’re really thankful to them.”
Sherman’s team has practiced on the field every day since Monday. Their scrimmage against Mooresville on Aug. 11 will mark the first football game played on the turf. The immediate benefits to the surface, Sherman said, is how it minimizes stress whenever the forecast appears bleak.
Normally, whenever rain engulfed the area, the youth football fields where the team formerly practiced would become nearly unplayable due to standing water. Now, as long as lighting isn’t present, the football team knows their new field can handle it.
Plus, it accentuates various possibilities in game planning.
“If you look at the guys who are our strength, they’re not real big, but they are smart and they are fast,” Sherman said. “That gets better when you’re not on a holey, muddy field. That helps us.”
Senior Orlando Mojica, who will see time on defense and offense, can attest to the surface’s attributes.
Baring down on opposing wide receivers and running backs out of the secondary, Mojica can feel the field beneath him with every move, juke and shift he makes.
“I’ve stumbled a couple of times because I’m not used to it, but I’m a lot faster,” Mojica said. “It’s smooth, more cuts, and it’s fast.
“We’re going to have fun this year. New field, everybody is ready. For the first game, we’re going to go after it. This is our home. This is who we are.”
As the football team headed to the locker room Friday, not a single piece of tape, trash or equipment was left behind, Sherman noted. His players are treating their new prize as a gift, one they appreciate.
“It’s great. It’s fun to play on and something to give our senior year a real emphasis,” senior quarterback Andrew Leslie said. “I think we deserve it, and we’ll definitely prove ourselves out here. I think we’re going to have a great year.”