It was a night to remember for Orchard Lake St. Mary’s on Friday, Sept. 7 as it won the first game played on its new red turf field, 58-0, over St. Marcellinus Secondary School from Ontario, Canada.
For the 2012 Eaglets, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience as the regular-season debut of the newly refurbished field coincides with them celebrating the football program’s 100th anniversary and its fifth state football championship, which it won last season.
“It went real well. I was pleased with the effort and it was a wonderful night,” St. Mary’s Head Coach George Porritt said. “I thought under the lights it was a sparkling field and we’re looking forward to the start of league play.”
The first touchdown on the new field came courtesy of a 48-yard touchdown pass from Matt Linehan to Van Jefferson with just over 9 minutes left in the first quarter, during which the Eaglets (2-1) scored 35 points.
Linehan would throw two more touchdowns on a 18-yard pass to Jalen Watts-Jackson and a 15-yard pass to Tyson Smith.
Grant Niemiec also had two touchdown runs from 8 yards and 15 yards out for St. Mary’s, while Parker McInnis also had a 17-yard touchdown run.
“It was hard to prepare for (St. Marcellinus) because we had little film to look at,” Porritt said. “We threw a little bit of everything at our players in practice and tried to prepare them as best we could.”
St. Mary’s began construction on its new field after a ground-breaking ceremony at the school in June and continued throughout the summer.
A dedication for the field was then held on Aug. 11, which was then followed by the annual St. Mary’s Red-White team scrimmage game.
The dedication included a blessing of the field by Bishop Francis R. Reese of the Archdiocese of Detroit, who was joined on the field by the school’s chancellor and rector, Fr. Tom Machalski, as well as the school’s headmaster, James M. Glowacki.
The Eaglets are just the third football team in the country to sport a red field, joining Eastern Washington University and New Braunfels Canyon High School in Texas.
St. Mary’s Athletic Facilities Director Robin Goddard went so far as to fly out to Eastern Washington University to meet with the school’s athletic director, Bill Chaves, as part of his research into the project, and said that the new field has already received national attention.
Goodard helped start a fund-raiser to generate the $575,000 necessary for the project, which also included a renovation of the football field’s bleachers.
One fund-raising initiative was a program to have donors’ names inscribed on bricks at the stadium at $500 a brick.
The turf was laid by Oakwood Industries, while the turf was made by Pro Turf of Georgia. Merlo Construction laid the foundation.
The construction of the additional bleachers was overseen by Engan Tooley Doyle & Associates of Okemos.
St. Mary’s will next play its first homecoming game on its red field when it hosts Detroit Jesuit on Friday, Sept. 14 to start its Detroit Catholic League Central Division schedule.
“U of D is always sound and we have to get better and play them well,” Porritt said. “I think we have to improve our passing game and protect Matt (Linehan) in the pocket better and improve our catching.”
After losing its season opener at Muskegon, the Eaglets have now won two straight, including its 47-7 victory over Toledo (Ohio) St. John’s Jesuit on Aug. 31.
St. Mary’s will next begin its quest to repeat as Catholic League Central champion.