Charleroi players spending week at old stadium
CHARLEROI — When the Charleroi Cougars open their home schedule of the 2011 football season, they will do so in their new digs, a $7 million stadium/auxiliary gymnasium on the district’s school campus.
And while the Cougars are excited to play on artificial turf in a new stadium, some of them admit to having some melancholy feelings about leaving the more-than-70-year-old Charleroi Stadium behind.
“I will miss this place,” said senior lineman Dave Strope, as he stood on the choppy turf of the crumbling stadium after practice Tuesday. “I’ve played here since I was in the seventh grade. This has been home.”
The Cougars are holding the first week of their summer camp at the old stadium before leaving for Ligonier next week for camp.
“It felt strange when I walked off this field after the Freedom game last year,” Strope said of the final contest of the 2010 season. “I thought then that we’d never be coming back, but here we are for another week.”
Quentin Briggs, the Cougars’ senior tailback, has run on the grass, dirt and occasional mud of Charleroi Stadium for a long time. He says he appreciates the stadium, but …
“For sure I’m looking forward to running on the new field,” Briggs said, sweat dripping from his head after running gassers with is teammates. “It’s going to be a thrill to play up there. I saw the stadium and its looking real nice.”
Briggs said his love for the old facility goes back farther than his varsity career.
“I will miss this place for sure,” he said. “I started playing flag (football) on this field. I’ve been playing football on this field since I was 5 years old. We are practicing here for a week and we’re making the best of it.
“But I want that new field,” he said with a wide grin. “Who doesn’t?”
Mike Kope, another four-year varsity veteran lineman, said the old stadium had its advantages for the Cougars.
“It made the fast teams a little slower when they played here,” Kope said. “The old stadium was good for tradition, but sometimes you need something new. If it’s a regular game, I will take the turf, definitely.”
Jesse Duvuvei has played on the line for the Cougars for three seasons, two of which he spent right in the middle as a center.
For Duvuvei, a new stadium can’t come fast enough.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m sick of playing in the mud that we’ve had here for years. I’ve mostly been a center all my life and the mud and rain made it really hard to grip the ball. I can’t wait to play in the new stadium.”
Charleroi head coach Luke Mollis certainly is among those who are looking forward to playing in a new stadium.
“I think it’s going to generate a lot of excitement in the school and the community,” Mollis said.
“I’ll miss the old stadium. I played here. I have memories. But at the same time, it is beyond fixing up. It’s falling apart. I’m not going to miss water dripping on my head in the coaches’ room, that’s for sure.”
Dan LaCarte, Mollis’ top assistant, said he has fond memories of the old stadium and is among the minority who will miss it.
“I will miss this place a lot,” LaCarte said as he walked off the practice field Tuesday. “There was something about this place. It had a lot of character.”
Mollis said there is one thing he won’t miss about going to the new stadium.
“Monessen won’t be able to burn that ‘M’ on the hillside (across the Monongahela River) if we ever play again.”
Mollis said he will be happy for his players to get a chance to play in a new facility that the Cougars can call their own.
“I’m excited for the kids,” he said. “It’ll be a nice facility, for sure.”
Kope summed up the feeling of most of his teammates when he said, “We’ll be the first team to open the new stadium up and that means a lot. It will be awesome.”
Charleroi is scheduled to play its first game at the new stadium Sept. 2 when Brownsville comes to town.