A field of dreams

Sept. 28, 2009, midnight | By Dennis Chae | 11 years ago

Blair's new turf still holds the memories of the old grass field

Blazers clad in their red football uniforms stand gazing from behind the white line, anticipating their offense's last play against the Magruder Colonels before the end of the half. Stadium lights glow and illuminate the field as an unwavering drizzle engulfs everything within the vicinity of the field. As the exhausted, drenched players walk off the field for the end of the half, one thing seems to be missing that was so evident from rainy games in years past – mud.

As the break comes to a conclusion, senior captain Daniel Solomon realizes this difference and begins to grin. "Man, I remember when we used to play in the mud on the grass field," Solomon reminisces. "Especially that Damascus game…I kind of miss the field."

Photo: The center of Blair's previous natural grass field was covered by a large dirt patch containing the Blazer logo. Picture courtesy of Mike Horne

Soloman is referring to the Blair v. Damascus football game in the fall of 2008, the last Blazer victory on the original grass gridiron. The game further cemented the significance of the previous grass field in the history of Blair athletics and added to the plethora of memories at Blazer Stadium. The beginning of this year's fall sports season marked the newest addition to the Blazer campus, the artificial turf field. The turf, installed over the summer, was meant to replace Blair's worn grass field and cut maintenance costs. It improved a natural grass field that was covered with numerous dirt patches and gaping holes that were often filled with sand to ensure safety during games. But when the turf was installed, many Blazers felt a sense of nostalgia for the field that once held the numerous memories, good and bad, of past Blair sports teams.

Breaking the Bengals
The 2008 girls' varsity lacrosse team was one team that made a name for itself on the old field. Though they were the dark horses of the 4A Eastern Division, their season would be filled with surprises, as they finished the regular season with an impressive 8-4 record that featured a run in the playoffs and earned them a share in their first ever Eastern Division title. One of the most memorable moments was their 12-9 triumph over the Blake Bengals during a regular season game.

As the defending girls' lacrosse state champions, the Bengals were the favorite to win the matchup. Coach Michael Horne and assistant coach Kathryn Ingraham, however, would not let that get in the way of entering the game with a winner's mentality. "My assistant coach and I knew we were playing a very good team but that we had our most talented team to date and really believed we could get the surprise upset against the defending champs," Horne says. "Ultimately, it was up to the girls on the team to believe in themselves and each other and play the way we knew they could."

Current captain Emily Hedrick, who was a sophomore during the surprising victory, credits the team's attitude for their performance. "We prepared ourselves so much and fine-tuned all the little things," Hedrick says. "Because we knew the mindset Blake would be going into the game with and we weren't happy about that."

Photo: The new artificial turf makes way for new memories. Picture courtesy of Mike Horne.

Right from the start, the girls took the lead and maintained a narrow advantage by halftime. In the first half, the team was able to attack on defense and to move the ball on offense. They tried the same formula in the second half of the game, and capitalized on it for the eventual win. "We had discussed the importance of transitions, groundballs, shot selection and shutting down their defense," current senior, then-sophomore Jill Lidsky says. "And when we stepped out on the field we did exactly what we were asked to do."

The win changed the team from the underdogs to a far more respected squad in the county. The Blazers, a team that had previously never finished with a winning season defeated the defending girls' lacrosse state champions in the Bengals. "Before the Blake game, we were an underestimated team," Lidsky says. "The game proved that we could keep up with any other school in the county."

The prolific girls' varsity lacrosse game began a sort of renaissance in Blair athletics. It provided a paved road for other sports teams to make positive changes.

Humbling the Hornets
Last year, the varsity football team attempted to follow in the girls' footsteps, pursuing similar success on the field. Following their disappointing 2007 season, the varsity football team entered a 5-5 redemption season where they saw a vast improvement from the previous year's record of 0-10. However, many members of the team remember the 2008 season for one specific win, which is dubbed a "miracle" among players: the memorable win against the Damascus Hornets 28-26 on Halloween night.

The Hornets were the 7-3 defending 3A state champions and the local Gazette predicted them to come out on top in what should have been an easy victory. Despite the unpromising predictions, Blair head coach Jeff Seals remained positive about the game and stressed to his team the importance of proving themselves by defeating a county powerhouse. "It was 13 years since we beat them last time," he points out. "I obviously wanted to win."

The game turned out to be a back-and-forth match. Score after score was made, with former seniors quarterback Victor Wang throwing for one touchdown and fullback Dayne Bolt contributing with two touchdowns of his own. By the end of the fourth quarter, the score was tied at 21-21 and overtime was kicked into full gear. Wang ran for two conversions and former senior linebacker Andy Holmes made the game-ending stop for the Blair win. Senior Abe Jarr, the current defensive captain of the varsity football team, credits his former teammates with putting up a valiant effort. "We fought very hard out there," he says. "We went into a war and came out with a win."

The win incited an ecstatic roar from the crowd and many fans rushed onto the field to congratulate the football team. Despite the fact that the technical significance of the game paled in comparison to a championship game, the crowd and team's response showed very little signs of this. "We acted like we won the world championship," Seals says.

New turf, new season
After his time on last year's improved football squad, Jarr looks forward to his run as the Blazer's captain in the 2009 season. "Last year was pretty fun," Jarr says. "But now we got to go out there for one more year and prove ourselves to the county."

Photo: This year, Blazers look forward to faster games on the new field. Picture courtesy of Mike Horne

Although she appreciated her experience on the natural grass field, Lidsky has readied herself for a new season on the turf field. She is excited about how the lacrosse games might change now that they will be on turf. "I really enjoyed playing on the grass field, despite the dirt patches and uneven surfaces," she says. "Now I'm looking forward to a much faster paced game on the turf."

As Soloman remembers Blair football's historic win against Damascus, he stands silently and full of thought. In a matter of seconds, he straightens his grin into a look of seriousness upon being called by the coach. Realizing he will be needed for the first offensive play in a new half of the season's first home game, Soloman trots off the sidelines and onto the playing field, ready to demonstrate the true meaning of a home field advantage.

Dennis Chae. Whhaazzaaa, I'm Dennis Chae. I love my Baltimore Ravens and shoes. In fact, I collect sneakers and am always looking for a new pair of Nikes. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is probably going to be the greatest thing ever in a year or so. I … More »

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