Christiansburg football team to get new practice field
In 2011, the Christiansburg High School football team advanced to play on the grandest stage possible, facing Briar Woods in the Virginia High School League Group AA state championship.
Thanks to the efforts of the school’s Touchdown Club and many community members, soon the team will also have a grand stage to practice on.
The group’s goal is to construct a regulation-size and fully irrigated field — replacing the existing area on the north end of campus that club members said was full of “gullies and weeds” — at no cost to the school.
“The Touchdown Club feels like over the past three or four years we’ve had the best team, and we certainly didn’t have the best practice facilities. They deserve to have the best that they can have,” said club president Tony Ashe.
Once the project is complete, Christiansburg High will become the second high school in the New River Valley to have an irrigated field to practice on.
Blacksburg High School currently has three irrigated fields, which were the result of an agreement between Montgomery County Public Schools and New River United Soccer Association, according to New River United Director of Operations Chris Rich. Though Rich admitted the improvements took place prior to his time with the club, he said he believed NRU put “quite a bit of money,” into irrigating and reseeding the fields.
For Christiansburg High, the football program’s success in recent seasons may have spurned the latest movement to fully develop their practice field, but that area of the campus has been a problem for decades.
Lance Reynolds, a 1999 graduate, said he remembered searching for foul balls amidst cattails during baseball season in the area known then as “the swamp,” as well as running sprints up “swamp hill” during football practice.
“The kids in the back [of the sprint lines] were just trying not to step down in the water and the mud,” Reynolds said.
The swamp disappeared in 2004 when developer Roger Woody supplied the dirt and equipment needed to fill in, level off and seed the area. Over the years, however, the field developed a downward slope toward its northwest corner, which made running pass routes nearly impossible.
Tilted terrain aside, head football coach Tim Cromer said the combination of dry summers and a lack of an irrigation system left the turf “brown and crunchy” even before the team’s preseason August practices began. In an effort to preserve the northern field for late season practices, Cromer said the team practiced in other locations until the first day of October.
He stressed that the quality of the practice field was very important because of the volume of time the varsity and junior varsity players — often around 80 — spend on it.
“We spend five games on the game field. We spend 52 or 60 [practices] on a practice field,” Cromer said.
Senior running back and linebacker De’Quan Green-Gause remembered how that much practice time affected those brown and crunchy fields toward the end of the 2011 season.
“It was just a bunch of holes and dirt,” Green-Gause said.
This spring the Touchdown Club decided it was time to change that experience and began calling on local businesses for help.
So far, that call has been answered.
The civil engineering firm of Gay and Neel Inc. supplied the proper design for the grading of the field, while David Hagan of Shelor Motor Mile donated the equipment and workers, which he estimated at an almost $15,000 value, to make that grading and development happen.
Once the field is in place, Fenton Well Drilling and Pump Service plans to put a 21-head, in-ground sprinkler system in place, along with drilling a well, which will use a pump donated by Gould’s Pumps and plumbing donated by 84 Lumber, to feed it.
Diana Fenton estimated the value of such a project to be worth close to $35,000 and said that once the system is in place, it will prevent the school from ever being charged for metered water. She added that they hope to always be able to use the well to irrigate the neighboring baseball field.
The group plans to have the field seeded by the end of June, with a short-term plan of having the field ready for use by the football team in early October and a long-term plan of having the field fenced and fully lit, enabling the team to practice at night.
While their goal was to give the players a field they could be proud to practice on, the Touchdown Club members said they were most proud of the way the people in the community had rallied together.
“The way things are economically now, where people are constantly looking to the government for money, ….here it’s the community doing what needs to be done,” said Touchdown Club member Joe Galante.
Cromer said this wasn’t the first time he had seen the club and community show such a high level of support during his 10 years as head coach. He cited the team’s new locker room, weight room and $17,000 worth of upgraded helmets as changes which only occurred because of the group’s efforts.
The players have also noticed the club’s most recent efforts and the accompanying equipment moving around the fields during the football camp the team hosted earlier this week.
“It shows the people in the town care,” Green-Gause said. “They want us to have the best practice experience.”
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