Hard to believe I’m writing my high school Football Weekly column in March, but here we are.
Outside of Delavan-Darien, Elkhorn and Lake Geneva Badger, the majority of area schools opted for the alternate fall season that began with the first day of practice Monday and kicks off what is between a five- to seven-game regular-season schedule for teams beginning March 26.
Obviously, playing games in March is not ideal for those schools playing home games on grass fields.
Two consecutive days of 50- and 60-degree temperatures have melted much of the snow, but frost levels are high.
This week’s early spring thaw has helped the drying-out process across the area.
Teams have been able to practice outdoors without the risk of frostbite or having to shovel snow, which in Wisconsin, is usually the norm in the second week of March.
But will things dry out enough for area teams that have grass fields to host games in 15 days? The answer is, unfortunately, no.
Turf fields are in high demand, and area schools are locking up the chance to switch opening-night home games on grass fields to sites with turf.
On the move for turf
Edgerton was scheduled to open the season at home against Lodi on March 26. The game will now be played at Lodi on the same night, because the Blue Devils’ home field has turf.
“Actually, our field is in pretty good shape, and we probably could’ve played on it that first game,” Edgerton athletic director Jon Dupuis said.
“But when you take into account that we also be playing boys soccer and then girls soccer on that field, too, there’s no sense taking any chances of tearing it up when Lodi has turf and were happy to host.
“We’re scheduled to host Turner in Week 2, and I think the field will be good to go by then. We just want to give it a little extra time.”
Brodhead/Juda head coach Jim Matthys reached out to former Rock Valley Conference foe Walworth Big Foot for help in finding a place to play on opening night. Big Foot is now in the Capitol Conference for football only, while Brodhead/Juda moved to the SWC for football only. Big Foot installed turf on its football field as part of a $8 million state-of-the-art improvement to its athletic facilities, so Matthys reached out. Brodhead/Juda will now open its season on March 26 by hosting Deerfield at Big Foot.
“Our practice field is in great shape, and we’ve been practicing on it all week,” Matthys said. “But I’m afraid if we played that first week on our field, it might be a quagmire by the time we got done and would be useless the rest of the season. It’s just too soft.
“We’ve only got two more home games after that first week, and I think we’ll be fine to play on our field after that. But I can’t thank Big Foot enough for helping us out. Being able to play on turf and save our field from any long-term damage is very important.”
Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker are both scheduled to open the season March 26th. Craig plays at DeForest, which has turf. Parker opens at home against Beaver Dam at Monterey Stadium, which does not have turf and does not drain well.
Parker athletic director and football coach Clayton Kreger said his team is looking at alternate sites with turf for Week 1 because Monterey’s field will not be ready for play. Among the options are DeForest, UW-Whitewater, Elkhorn and Big Foot.
“I’m in contact almost every day with different districts to secure a place to play, and should have a place secured by the end of the week,” Kreger said. “I haven’t been in touch with the buildings and facilities people in our district that much because I know Monterey is not an option for Week 1.
“Our coaches and players were out with shovels and snow blowers last week getting our practice fields ready, and with the sun beating down the last couple days, we’ll be able to get outside for practice. Right now, we’ve been working in pads and helmets indoors.”
Parker is scheduled to scrimmage Middleton next week on the Cardinals’ turf field.
The alternate fall football season has begun. Now, it’s up to Mother Nature to do her part to get the fields ready for play.