Football preparations a team effort

Ashland volunteers get new field ready.
Friday, September 17, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:56 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

ASHLAND — Volunteers are working overtime to prepare for Southern Boone High School’s first home varsity football game tonight.

At 7 p.m., the Eagles (0-2) kick off against Missouri Military Academy in the small town 10 miles south of Columbia.

This week, as the building projects continued, parents and friends piled their pickup trucks with Sheetrock and hay and drove back and forth down Ashland’s two-lane road. They took vacation days from work and gave up their weekends, and some stayed until 11 p.m. working on the concession stand and press box.

In some ways, these mothers, fathers, grandparents and neighbors are more dedicated to the game than the players.

“These guys wanted football back 30 years ago when they were in high school, and they’ve finally seen their dream,” said Roy Merriott, who helped with construction.

His son, Zack, 14, plays wide receiver and defensive back on the junior varsity, and his wife, Rachel, is selling $25 VIP season parking passes through the booster club.

Wednesday evening, the volunteers hammered and drilled through the heavy rain and lightning. Steve Reeder, a Southern Boone alumnus whose children graduated from the school a few years ago, helped hang stall doors and dividers in the roomy restrooms adjacent to the concession stand.

From the top of the bleachers, the dark greens, deep browns and white stripes of the football field create a geometric palette of fall shades and hues. Behind the field’s heavy tree line, a water tower stands in the distance, and a streak of lightning illuminates the soft gray Ashland skies. In an adjacent field, the Southern Boone Eagles practice drills in their red-and-white game jerseys. Their dream of tonight’s game continues, even as raindrops muddy the ground.

With 800 to 1,000 fans expected to attend the game, the volunteers put together additional bleachers to hold the crowd, which if predictions are correct, will include virtually half of Ashland’s population.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to is going to be there,” Rachel Merriott said, as she chopped pork tenderloin for tailgate sandwiches in the concession stand’s kitchen. Her daughter Gracyn, 2, skipped at her feet through a pool of water blown inside the kitchen by the rain.

“That’s one good thing about this community: They follow their sports,” she said.

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