Photographs by David Gottschalk
Layers of gravel are spread out Wednesday as work continues at Wolf Pack Stadium in Lincoln. The football field is being prepared for an artificial surface.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
LINCOLN -- The grass is up and the gravel is down at Lincoln, where Wolf Pack Stadium is being layered with an artificial surface.
Work began on July 17 and the project is expected to be finished in time for the Wolves' first home game against Keys, Okla., on Sept 8. Lincoln, which is practicing at its former stadium north of downtown, opens the season Sept. 1 at Westville, Okla.
Workers driving heavy equipment spent part of the week spreading gravel on the field before the artificial turf is installed. The project is part of an upgrade at Lincoln High School that includes an improved drainage system and an indoor practice facility.
Lincoln athletic director Deon Birkes said the switch to an artificial surface has been planned for some time and that $500,000 is committed in a partnership between the school and contributors to its foundation. The turf was purchased from a company in Louisiana for $677,000.
"An artificial turf is more usable where everybody, like our soccer team and even our PE classes, can use it," Birkes said. "It's easier to maintain than grass and Shiloh Christian bought an artificial turf from the same company that's been in place on its field for 16 years.
"It's all about the kids. We've got great kids here at Lincoln and we want to provide for them."
West Fork anticipates a seamless transition after former coach Brad Lindley left in June to become an assistant coach on Billy Dawson's staff at Fayetteville.
The Tigers are now led by Bob Wise, who was promoted after spending 12 years as an assistant coach at West Fork.
"I've known most of these kids and their families since they were in the seventh grade," Wise said. "That's definitely an advantage."
West Fork hopes for a turnaround after the Tigers finished 1-9 after opening the season with huge losses to Greenland, Elkins and Prairie Grove. West Fork was outscored 14-144 in those games before beating Subiaco Academy 28-0 for its lone win.
"We were plagued with a lot of injures last year and we had 14 players in street clothes in Week 10," Wise said. "That 1-9 record is certainly motivation for our guys. We're looking to surprise some people this year."
The Blackhawks are already preparing for their season opener, as well as their second game of the season. Why so much at once? Because Pea Ridge has two games the first week of the season.
The Blackhawks, 13-2 a year ago and a Class 4A state runner-up, open the season Aug. 28 against Hamburg in the Hooten's Kickoff Classic at Estes Stadium at the University of Central Arkansas. Four days later, they travel to Booneville for a matchup against the 4A-4 Conference favorite Bearcats.
Second-year coach Stephen Neal welcomed 71 players in on Monday and said coaches and players are excited for the season to get here. The Blackhawks are ready -- well, almost ready -- to start hitting.
"Coaches are nervous, did we get all the planning right?" Neal said. "Like me, I've got everything ordered and everything is on its way in, and I realized I forgot the mouthpieces. So I've got a rush order now to get those here."
Pea Ridge has been practicing twice a day, both in the morning, with a 45-minute break between sessions. Neal said the coaches have made practice modifications to prepare for the busy first week.
"Normally at this time of the year we're just showing base things with our kids," Neal said. "We're also going against our offense and our defense with a whole lot more inter-squad stuff. Starting next week, we have game plans we have to put in."
A numbers crunch has again hit the Bulldogs as just about a baker's dozen players were suited up for practice Thursday. New coach Ryan Woolard said the focus of the new coaching staff was to get numbers up.
The Bulldogs have battled this situation for years, at times seeing the season teetering on the edge, but have always managed to recruit players when classes start. Woolard is hoping for similar results.
"We're just trying to get numbers out," Woolard said. "It's on the edge. We're trying to get more kids out every night."
Woolard said the program needed around 20 players to compete in the 2A-4 Conference. He said a couple of players who were expected to be with the team have not made it to a practice, but he was confident they would join the team soon.
Coaches are calling potential players and also taking to social media to try to add numbers, Woolard said.
"Last year at this time they only had like five out," Woolard said. "We've had consistently 10 or so that have been here every day, and more are coming every day. We're doing everything we can right now."
Decatur was a state runner-up last spring at the state track meet. The coaching staff is hoping to build off of that success this fall, Woolard said.
Sports on 08/05/2017
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