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Archive for Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Woodling: Wet field could aid Lions

October 21, 2008

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From the press box at Haskell Stadium, two sportscasters from a McPherson radio station commented on the state of the playing field.

One said he thought the field looked "pretty chopped up," and the other mentioned how most of the football venues in their part of the state had artificial turf.

After I heard that exchange, I thought to myself, as I watched Haskell Indian Nations University's football game against McPherson College, that these guys should have seen the ancient home of the Fightin' Indians when its field is REALLY chopped up.

Not that Haskell's field is ever really in optimum shape, but for this time of year and for as many games as have been played there, the Haskell grass is holding up pretty well.

What shape the field will be in for Friday's Lawrence-Free State football game, however, is anybody's guess because rain is forecast for mid-week, and the aging facility on East 23rd Street drains like a sponge.

Then again, Haskell Stadium, while quaint and historic, remains a relic by most contemporary standards, many involving fan accommodations like parking, rest rooms and concessions.

Thus, word last week that the school district will construct new football-soccer facilities complete with artificial turf at both city high schools is good news indeed. Beginning with the 2009 school year, neither Lawrence High nor Free State High will have to play a football game at Haskell Stadium again.

Or will they?

Those new on-campus complexes should be adequate when the Lions or Firebirds meet a Sunflower League foe, but not when they face each other. The Lawrence-Free State game will have to be moved to another site, meaning either Haskell Stadium or Memorial Stadium.

Kansas University's stadium is much too big. More of a factor, though, is that KU Athletics Inc. officials have made it clear they don't want high school games played there.

By comparison, Haskell Stadium is just the right size. The 7,000 or 8,000 fans who attend the Free State-Lawrence football game fit into the stadium comfortably. Parking isn't a major problem if the grass lot northeast of the stadium can be used, but if it rains too much this week : well, prepare for a long walk after parking your car on a side street.

Fans who attend Friday night's game will not be watching two Sunflower League title contenders. Free State's record is 4-3, while Lawrence is 3-4. The winner is virtually assured of a postseason berth. The loser will have to win its season finale a week from Friday in order to reach the Class 6A playoffs.

Based on its record, Free State is the favorite. The Firebirds also have the incentive of deadlocking the series that Lawrence once led, 5-2. Free State has won three of the last four, and another victory Friday will knot the rivalry at six victories apiece.

Still, the underdog has won more than once in the previous 11 meetings, and, while Lawrence High can't match the Firebirds' offensive weaponry, the Lions rarely make mistakes.

And on a wet field, the team that makes the fewest gaffes usually wins.

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