NEWBERRY — When it comes to athletics at Newberry Academy, it’s not hard to find someone who’s proud of what the school has accomplished, specially when it comes to football.
But, unlike most schools, Newberry Academy didn’t play on its home field. It had a football field but nearly 20 years ago, that changed.
In 1997, the football program at Newberry Academy was cut after it was decided that it wasn’t needed. Cut to 2013 when Headmaster Brian Fitzgerald helped get middle school football started at the school.
It was only his second year at the helm but he said they determined that restarting football was a viable option.
“When I came on board, one of the things that was mentioned to me when they hired me was to explore reopening football for us. So over the course of 2012 and 2013 we looked at it, we explored it to the point where we thought it was viable and so in 2013 we launched a middle school program,” he said. “We wanted to do it the right way. We wanted to build it. The school had been involved in it previously. We had jumped straight into varsity. I recognized the growing pains from that.”
Fitzgerald said it was a matter of school pride.
“My number one response to this was it’s the kids. It’s the boys that want to be out there. They want to be playing at Newberry Academy. That’s why we are doing this — because it’s going to instill a sense of pride, a sense of team with these kids,” he said.
Clark Dehart and Head Coach Benji Sease did a lot of the heavy lifting and continue to do it.
“He (Sease) took on the lion’s share of that. He has done an amazing job with that,” Fitzgerald said. “There were several gentlemen that were instrumental in this. That really laid the framework for us. They were out there all spring, all summer doing the grass and making sure some of the structural things were taken care of. t was the first time in 20 years that we have been able to do this.”
Cut to 2017 and the start of the 2017 football season.
“When we originally mentioned to them last year that we may possibly play on our field this coming year, there was a little bit of disappointment because they (players) had mainly been playing on the college field,” Sease said. “But once they had seen the work that was being put into the field as far as the grass and the stuff that was being added and when the goal post went up I think they realized that this was their field.”
The four captains of the school’s football team — Bryce Horn, Tyrese Taylor, Hunter Taylor and Tabb French — said they were pumped about it.
“It was pretty weird at first,” French said. “It has a lot more sentimental value now. There’s a lot more to it now.”
Tyrese Taylor, the playcaller for Newberry Academy, said there is “just nothing like having your own field.”
Hunter Taylor said it felt different playing on their school’s field, rather than at Newberry College.
“It felt a lot different but it’s a lot nicer having your own field to play on than somewhere else that’s not yours,” he said. “Now we have our own field instead of having to rely on Newberry College.”
Horn echoed Fitzgerald’s comments: “It feels pretty good. It’s pride a thing.”
Even Sease said he feels proud that Newberry Academy has a field to call its own.
“You have a sense of pride when playing on your own field,” he said. “I thought the kids would be excited. I think our school is gonna get behind it. We’ve had a lot of people chip in. Clark Dehart has been very instrumental in getting our field ready and playable. I think the kids understand that.”
Plans are to add a field house, ticket booth, a new scoreboard, snack area and more bleachers.