LIBERTY CENTER — The Liberty Center football team welcomes Otsego tomorrow night to Rex Lingruen Stadium, the first home game of the season for the Tigers.
Even as recently as new Athletic Director Kaleb Pohlman’s first day on the job, the status of the grass field at the stadium was still in question. Not anymore, as Pohlman declared LC’s field “Ready to go.”
“We had a plan in place, even before I got here, to get the field ready for this game,” Pohlman said. “There were some delays in the process, but there was a built-in buffer in the schedule to make sure we would be ready.”
After the program’s home playoff win during last year’s run to the state semifinal, combined with a number of games played in the rain, the field sat in disrepair.
“We had a mix of bad rain games and a playoff run that really took its toll on the field,” Pohlman said. “Playoff runs are great, but they add games to your field and affect its longevity, so we wanted to take steps to make sure that we could keep it up and show it off throughout the postseason.”
The program moved all games, freshmen, junior varsity and junior high, away from Rex Lingruen Stadium in weeks one and two for this year, as the athletics department worked to get the field ready for the first varsity game day.
“All of our events are good to go at the stadium after Friday,” Pohlman said. “We wanted to take it easy on the new grass so it would be pristine for this first game, and now we’re confident it will hold up throughout the season and for years to come.”
The Liberty Center Athletic Boosters made a $10,000 donation towards the irrigation at the field, a system maintained by Memmer’s Water Tech out of Defiance, a move approved in an Aug. 26 school board meeting.
“We now have water sprinklers installed all over the field, where in the past we were using a water cannon,” Pohlman said. “A water cannon isn’t efficient for the staff or as a method to water your field, so we think this is going to be a much better option for us.”
LC superintendent Richie Peters said in the meeting excessive rain and heat delayed the district’s effort to work on the field, but the program had been working to get the project back on track.
In the same meeting, Pohlman pointed out the issues crabgrass was causing on the field, but noted green grass had started growing.
“When we were working on the field after laser-grading it and slit-seeding it, it got really hot, and the only thing that grows in that kind of heat is weeds,” Pohlman said. “I really have to commend our maintenance staff and everyone that put work in on the field, because they put in the research on how to take care of the problem. There’s a lot of science in when to fertilize and when to use weed killer, but the field looks awesome because of the work they put in.”
Pohlman also mentioned flooding on the field caused by a leak in the irrigation system, but said the issue has been fixed.
“Fortunately, it was a slow leak that was not on the actual field of play,” Pohlman said. “We were able to find it quickly, dig it up and fix it, and now it’s in great shape for the first game.”
Pohlman thanked LC football coach Casey Mohler for his patience and willingness to sacrifice time on the field with his team during the process.
“I’m sure, as a head coach, that was frustrating for Casey to give up the home games for some of the younger teams who couldn’t play on the field until after this week,” Pohlman said. “But he understood this is for the long-term interest of the program, and I think he just wanted to do what’s best for the program as a whole.”
Traditionally, LC holds one practice per week on the field at the stadium, taking place Thursday afternoons. Mohler said his team is excited to get out on the new grass.
“It’s been a long process with some questions, but we are happy that it’s resolved and we can get to playing as usual at home,” Mohler said. “It was hard to lose those home games for some of the younger teams, but it helped the staff get the field ready for our home opener, and I know there is going to be a lot of excitement around that.”
The Tigers kick off against Otsego tomorrow night at 7 p.m.