The new artificial turf athletic at Aberdeen High School is just days away from game action, with the field's dedication slated for 10 minutes before the Eagles football squad's homecoming game with Perryville on Nov. 1.
"This is definitely big for Aberdeen High," Aberdeen Mayor Michael E. Bennett said on Wednesday. "We're all happy that the school is getting the new facility. It's a lot better for the athletes. I remember way back when, if it rained at all you had to play in a mud pit, but that's all in the past now. They have a beautiful school over there, and now a nice new field for the students and community to enjoy. It's a really nice addition to our town."
According to the Aberdeen High School web page, the completed turf field's first official use will coincide with Aberdeen's homecoming game, a Nov. 1 contest with the Perryville Panthers. A dedication ceremony is scheduled to take place at 6:50 p.m. that night, 10 minutes prior to the start of the game.
From the start of their season on Sept. 6 through tonight's 7 p.m. game at Havre de Grace, the Eagles have had to play all of their football games on the road, even when they were slated as the hosts. A Sept. 20 contest with Elkton was played on the turf field at Bel Air, and the next week Aberdeen played C. Milton Wright down Route 40 at Havre de Grace's James R. Harris Stadium.
The plan to install Aberdeen High's new field was cemented back on June 20, when the Harford County Board of Estimates voted to approve a contract with Churchville's Dixie Construction Company. The $990,425 bid offered by Dixie Construction was the lowest of four from contractors that had been approved by the Harford County Department of Parks and Recreation and school officials.
For Aberdeen head football coach Johnny Brooks, this is the second time in his coaching career his team has had to miss some home games because of a new field being installed. Back in 2010, during the last of his 13 campaigns at the helm of the Have de Grace football program, the Warriors' current home, James R. Harris Stadium, was being worked on for the first three weeks of the season. Brooks left Havre de Grace to take over the Aberdeen team in 2011, and two seasons later finds himself in a similar situation.
"Everyone is definitely excited to get out there and play on that turf, but I'm just trying to keep them even keeled at this point, and keep them focused on the Havre de Grace game," Brooks said on Wednesday. "To be honest, I don't pay much attention to whether we're playing at home or on the road. It's the same game plan no matter what. We've been on the road all this season, but I don' think it's had too big an effect on us. It will be nice to have a few games on the new field though."
The Aberdeen players have had an opportunity to practice on the new field. Brooks explained there's a difference between artificial turf during from his playing days, when he quarterbacked the Havre de Grace team to a state title, and what is being installed at Aberdeen.
"I didn't like playing on turf at all," Brooks said. "It hurt more when you went down, and you'd come up with those turf burns all over you. The turf they're using now though, it's a whole a lot better. I wish I'd have gotten a chance to play on this stuff."
The turf field installation at Aberdeen's marks the seventh such project undertaken at a Harford County public school, and is part of a movement to provide all 10 HCPS high schools with artificial grass venues. Before was tapped as the next school to receive one, turf fields were installed at North Harford, Havre de Grace, Edgewood, Bel Air, Harford Tech and C. Milton Wright over the last five years.
With Aberdeen's field completed, there will be only three Harford County public schools left playing their sports on real grass. Fallston, opened in 1977, and Patterson Mill, the youngest county school, having opened in 2007, are not slated to receive turf fields at this point. Joppatowne, opened in 1972, was named by the Harford County Department of Parks and Recreation as the next school to receive a turf field. The expected start date for that project is summer 2014.