Makeover underway for Whittell High field | RecordCourier.com

Makeover underway for Whittell High field

by Bill Rozak
brozak@tahoedailytribune.com

There are several mounds of dirt up to 10 feet high. A water truck circles the area to contain dust. Heavy equipment operators are digging trenches and spreading topsoil while laborers assist.

While a lot of work is being done on Coach Gary Lundergreen Athletic Field at Whittell High School in Zephyr Cove, there are no football or soccer practices or games being held.

The regular home for the Warriors is in the midst of a complete renovation. There will be no athletic contests held on the high school field this season.

But in 2018-19, Whittell will unveil a completely remodeled field that includes an all-weather track surface that circles a new grass field, a new concession stand that will replace the old "ramshackle" building that has stood since the 1960s and an irrigation and drainage system that will take care of the standing water that used to turn the track into a swamp.

"I believe this will help build pride in our school," eighth-year Whittell principal Crespin Esquivel told the Tahoe Daily Tribune after the first day of school. "Hopefully the kids take a sense of ownership and take care of the new facilities. People in the community will be able to use it as well. It will be a great addition."

The remodel of the field is due to a generous $3 million donation from the Lisa Maloff Foundation.

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While work from Bison Construction of Carson City trudges along, the football team practices on a grass field near the gymnasium and the girls soccer team practices on the grass softball field.

The football team will play its home games this season at South Tahoe Middle School in South Lake Tahoe while the soccer team will play at Zephyr Cove Park. Whittell, which has about 200 students in seventh through 12th grades, could've stayed in the county and school district and played their games about 45 minutes away off the hill at Douglas High School, but Esquivel felt it would be an easier drive for Warrior parents and supporters to stay on the mountain.

"Douglas was willing to take care of us, but the middle school is closer and easier for our fans," Esquivel said. "And anything that helps build relationships with our neighbors is good."

Fourth-year head coach and first-year athletic director Phil Bryant, who also coached football in California for over 40 years and has lead two Whittell basketball teams to state championships, said the stadium project is exciting for the school, with the exception that they can't play any home games this year.

The new field will be a regulation-sized football field but will also have lines drawn for the narrower field required for 8-man football. The 8-man game is more wide open with six less players on the field compared to the traditional 11 players per side.

The field at South Tahoe Middle School will have special lines made with tape to accommodate the Warriors.

The Warriors are off Friday before they host Eureka on Friday, Sept. 8.

The Warriors will play four home games at the middle school, including Sept. 29, vs. Coleville, Oct. 13 vs. Mineral County and Oct. 26 against Smith Valley.

"We do some gimmick things but we're traditional football," Bryant said. "Our thing is speed and we're creative on both sides of the ball. Some people talk down 8-man football, but it's the same game. Some people might wanna come watch us for the novelty of 8-man football."