Football players who came out every day to watch the installation of the new synthetic turf field at Buchtel Community Learning Center thought about the mud pit it used to be, the rolled ankles the divots caused.
“This is nicer than the Panthers’ field from Sunday, that’s how nice this turf is,” Dobbs said, recalling the Browns’ 26-24 season-opening victory over the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
Dobbs and Browns' Executive Vice President and Partner JW Johnson were on hand for the dedication of one of 13 fields installed in Ohio by the team, courtesy of the Haslam family and Browns Give Back, an initiative launched in 2016.
Buchtel is one of two Akron Public Schools sites chosen, following the field installed at Ellet in 2019. Archbishop Hoban had the high-quality turf installed in 2021 as part of the program, which lines the fields for multiple sports.
“I’ve told that to our coaches multiple times, it doesn’t even feel real,” said Buchtel senior Davian Greenlee, 17, who plays offensive and defensive line and also wrestles. “I’ve been here since seventh grade. Seeing us get this field is an amazing experience.”
Greenlee said the old field was “just terrible.”
“The dirt patches, you couldn’t kick a field goal in a certain spot … we’d have to move the ball every time,” Greenlee said. “Rolling our ankles, doing all that, there were divots. Fortunate for the Browns to get us a new field. We’ve practiced on it, it was great. We’re not basically playing in a mud bowl anymore.”
With the project completed two weeks ago, the Griffins will play their first game on the new turf Saturday at 1 p.m. against Cleveland Benedictine.
Ron Linger, who serves as athletic director for Akron Public Schools with Joe Vassalotti, said Buchtel replaced the bleachers two years ago, the scoreboards five years ago. The press box is 10 to 15 years old. Linger hopes the track can be addressed next.
Bryan Williams, in his second season as Buchtel football coach, marveled at the completed project, which principal LaCresia Beecher said included the hiring of five student workers. Williams played for Buchtel and was a running back, defensive back and return specialist at the University of Akron.
“To see it now, you feel like you’re somewhere else,” Williams said. “You walk back here and see this beautiful turf with our logo in the middle of it, it’s a beautiful thing, for sure. I’m proud that it happened for us.”
During his high school days, Williams played City Series games at the dilapidated Rubber Bowl. Asked if Butchel’s old field was a mud pit, he said, “That’s an understatement. We were out here rolling in it one practice last year towards the end of the year. We’re going to miss it, but we’re not going to miss it that much.
“You talk about the bad old days. We went from the Rubber Bowl, where it was AstroTurf, then you come here and play on this grass in the rain, snow, sleet. I take that back, we ain’t going to miss it at all.”
Horrigan, a St. Vincent-St. Mary alum, mentioned the Buchtel mascot and joked, “I’m never allowed to stand on the Griffin, so I’m going to stand on it one time.”
Fowler Mack called the new turf “more than a field, it’s the resolution of a dream.”
“A lot of people for a long time have really hoped that we would make even more investments in our students, in the Buchtel cluster, in our entire community,” she said.
As the threatening clouds dispersed and the sun came out, she said, “Heaven is smiling down on us.”
The family of late Buchtel football coach Tim Flossie felt the same way. Flossie, who led Buchtel to Division II state titles in 1987 and 1988 and state runner-up finishes in 1995 and 1996, passed away on July 18 at age 73. The stadium was named in his honor in 2019.
“He would be so happy and he would be so pissed because he didn’t get to play on it,” said Flossie’s wife, Jeannie.
“I remember the first time Tim and I came here and he said, ‘This is going to be a real challenge.’ They didn’t have any warm water; they had to take showers in cold water and we wrote these letters. It’s come such a long way. It’s beautiful to see. I’m going to cry.”
Like an angel that was sent from heaven:Ohio State's John Wooldridge remembers Akron high school coaching legend Tim Flossie
Among those accompanying her were Flossie’s grandson, Jake, 16, a junior quarterback at Ellet. Jeannie Flossie said Tuesday’s event felt like another memorial for her husband.
“He certainly had a lot of energy and love for football. If the Lord lets people look down, I’m sure he’s smiling,” she said.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.
Looking back on Weeks 1-4 of high school football
Miss any of our earlier coverage this season, here it is:
Akron-area high school football Week 4:Scoreboard: Highland beats Tallmadge; Hudson wins; Green rallies past Jackson; Hoban rolls
Akron-area high school football Week 3:Akron-area high school football scoreboard: Tallmadge tops Green in overtime thriller
Akron-area high school football Week 2:No. 1 Hoban rolls; North wins first game since 2019: Akron high school football scores
Akron-area high school football Week 1:Friday night prep scoreboard: Twinsburg edges Copley; Tallmadge, Hoban win big
Ohio high school football:Greater Akron high school football: Everything to know for the 2022 season
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This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Cleveland Browns install synthetic turf at 13 high schools