Pisgah football returns home after nearly 800 days

May 24—It had been 773 days since Pisgah High School's football team took the field at Pisgah Memorial Stadium for a practice or game. That changed on Monday, May 8, and it was a big moment for coaches and players alike.

"Just to be able to walk across the bridge, it's those little things that you forget," Pisgah head football coach Brett Chappell said.

Before the regularly scheduled 2021 season in the fall, Tropical Storm Fred brought flooding to the area, inflicting major damage on the entire area, including Pisgah Memorial Stadium. The natural disaster sent the Bears on the road for two seasons.

"You just don't realize it because it has been so long until you actually start walking back down and coming across the bridge and into the stadium, hearing the mill whistle, at least for now, before practice starts," Chappell said. "We still have some of those things that we were accustomed to for so long."

While it was not a game against another school, and there were no fans packed into the stands, the day marked the first day of spring practice and the first time many of the players currently on the team have ever stepped foot on the field in their pads.

"It's so special," junior quarterback Aaron Clark said. "It feels even more special because I have never played on it."

While the stadium is not entirely ready to welcome Friday night lights back yet, it should be ready by the season-opening game against Brevard High School on Aug. 18. In the meantime, Clark and his teammates are relishing the opportunity to get to know their new home.

"I've never had a home field in high school," Clark said. "To be out here with everyone is great. "It finally feels like home to me."

While the senior group, led by safety and wide receiver Breydon Reynolds, has played a game at Pisgah Memorial Stadium before, it was just three junior varsity games in the shortened spring 2021 season following the pandemic.

"It feels like home," Reynolds said. "Up there (motioning to the practice field adjacent to the high school), it's just not the same."

Returning to the field has helped Reynolds and his teammates regain their groove.

"Everything is going a lot smoother this year," Reynolds said. "Last year, it never really felt right."

Chappell said being back on the field is important because it allows the team to get used to being on turf again. He said that the turf at Pisgah Memorial Stadium has longer blades and a little more give than other turf fields, but it does take on more water. The heat from the field can be intense at times, too, with the smell of hot rubber in the air during a toasty day of practice

"We're even getting the coaches used to it again," Chappell said. "There's an acclimation period for it, especially for your joints. We're a little bit spoiled being able to come down and practice on the turf compared to where some programs are at."

The players are looking forward to the team's season opener against Brevard. Last season, the Blue Devils walked off of their field with a 21-14 win over the Bears.

"I'm so pumped," Clark said. "We already have a little bit of a rivalry with Brevard. I know it's going to be packed with it being the first game back here. It's going to be great. I'm looking forward to it."

Reynolds agreed with Clark and had a challenge for Canton football fans.

"I just hope, for the first game, the fans pack the stadium like it's a Pisgah-Tuscola game," he said.