FARMINGTON — The Mt. Blue High School football team was ready. The Cougars, the defending Class B state champions, got dressed and psyched up in their locker room, and walked to the field to take on opening night opponent Hampden Academy.
That’s right, they walked. There was no getting on a school bus for a ride a few miles down the road to Kemp Field, the home of Mt. Blue youth football, and for the last two seasons, the home away from home of the Cougars, too.
On Friday night, Mt. Blue christened the new field at the high school. Kemp Field was a suitable surrogate home, and filled in nicely while Mt. Blue High School underwent renovations.
“We don’t have to take the bus ride over. We don’t have to put our helmets on later. We’re all set, ready to go,” senior Nate Backus said. “We don’t have to go early. We’ve got the locker room to ourselves to get pumped up. It was nice. It was more of a football experience.”
The Cougars’ new facility, however, jumps immediately on to the list of best high school football fields in Maine. The fresh and closely cut grass is one of the best natural fields in the state. Fans get to sit in brand new bleachers, eat food prepared in a brand new concession stand, use brand new restrooms and watch games illuminated by brand new lights.
If a fan is sitting in the bleachers behind the home sideline, a large, easy to read scoreboard is on the left. Look to the right, and there’s a spectacular view of the surrounding foothills of western Maine.
“We had a great week of practice. We knew we were going to be playing out here tonight. And we came out on fire,” said senior quarterback Andrew Pratt, who threw for 343 yards and five touchdowns in the 49-20 win over Hampden.
On Thursday, the Cougars practiced on the field for the first time.
“I thought we’d have one of those practices where everyone’s flying around, going crazy. But it was almost like they were in awe of this place,” Mt. Blue head coach Gary Parlin said.
If there’s any controversy at all, it’s surrounds the field’s name. The old Mt. Blue field was Caldwell Field, named after former head football coach Ray Caldwell, Pratt’s grandfather, Parlin’s predecessor and the coach of the Cougars when they won the state title in 1980.
The sign at the field’s entrance identifies it as Caldwell Field, but during the pregame introductions, it was referred to as Mt. Blue’s competition field.
To Parlin, there is no debate.
“It’s Caldwell Field. The sign’s right up there. It’s Caldwell Field. Everybody who’s been involved with Mt. Blue football over the years, since our inception, believes and knows this should be Caldwell Field,” Parlin said. “Ray didn’t come up with the $500,000 to put turf on here, but it’s Caldwell Field, no doubt.”
After the Cougars’ win, Parlin had the players run and touch the sign bearing Caldwell’s name, a tradition that dates back to the old Caldwell Field. It’s an appreciation of the present and a nod to the past, and the Cougars are glad the tradition is back.
“Coach Parlin was pretty big on that one. He kept emphasizing that. It was good to get the win for him,” Backus said.
On next Friday, Mt. Blue hosts old rival Lawrence. If you’re going, get there early. The new Caldwell Field will be rocking, and the night will be an early entry for the largest crowd in the facility’s history.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242