At the end of last football season, little did Coach Randy Baughman know that his Licking Valley Panthers would never again host a game on grass. In fact, it wasn't until this summer that one anonymous donor stepped up to begin a complete makeover of Baughman stadium.
"It kind of floored me at first. I mean, you always dream about turf. And it just kind of happened overnight and we're truly blessed and thankful," said Baughman.
While Licking Valley is the first team in the Mid-State League to install artificial turf, other schools such as Tri-valley and Zanesville were just a couple of several area teams to buck the trend of rubber, plastic and nylon fibers last summer.
"You get to practice on a field that is lined and game ready all of the time. Instead of us going out and lining the practice field and the lines disappear. So, it makes everything a bit more crisp and i think you can practice game situations," said Tri-Valley Head Football Coach Justin Buttermore.
Zanesville Head Football Coach Chad Grandstaff adds, "We have way less injuries than what we had with grass. So it's just real nice to come out here everyday to a nice field that's ready to go, and it just puts a little more spring in your practice."
Now, I'm sure you've heard the saying 'the proof is in the pudding,' but for most area schools, according to their success, the proof is in the turf.
"The turf I think really gives everybody a shot in the arm. And I think it does help some programs take the next step," said Buttermore.
For example, the scotties went 9-1 with an Muskingum Valley League title in their first year on turf. Zanesville has lost just three games in two years on home turf. New Lexington made a run to the state semi-finals on their new field in 2008. While in the most dramatic case, Maysville improved from 0-10 to 6-4 in their change to synthetic in 2009. A difference Coach Baughman is expecting in Hanover.
"It builds that pride you know. The kids get excited about seeing this field and i think being able to practice every night on a good solid field will help you as the season goes along," said Baughman.
The project should be finished by August 20 - one week before kickoff.