When Merced High School hosts Enochs on Friday night, it truly will be a homecoming football game.
A scheduling conflict with Golden Valley has opened the door for the Bears to host their second on-campus game in school history. With the Cougars hosting their homecoming game against Stellar Prep of Oakland at Veterans Stadium, Merced opted to assemble a makeshift stadium like it did two years ago against Downey.
“We didn’t want to play on a Thursday or Saturday,” Bears coach Rob Scheidt said. “We had a lot of positive feedback from the Downey game. We want to find a way to capture that excitement and do it again. At some point, we want our own stadium, and we’re trying to find a way to make that happen.”
Scheidt has had preliminary talks with a company that has come up with a plan for a 3,400-seat stadium with FieldTurf that would be built where the freshman field is located.
“We’ve got the support of the district. It’s just a matter of finding the funding,” Scheidt said.
To help with the funding, athletic director Paul Hogue is starting an alumni association. According to Hogue, the group’s goal would be to upgrade Merced High’s athletic facilities.
“The focus of the group isn’t just to build a football stadium,” Hogue said. “We need to expand our pool. It needs to be deeper and wider. Our softball field needs a scoreboard. We need an all-weather track. We’re looking to upgrade the facilities of all the athletic programs.”
Hogue also is working toward putting together a Merced High Hall of Fame that also would serve as a fundraiser for the athletic programs. Merced’s first Hall of Fame dinner is scheduled for March 21 with former football coach Mark Speckman serving as the keynote speaker.
For now, Merced must find a way to turn the freshman field into a facility equipped to host a varsity football game. Fortunately, Merced can turn to the checklist it made for the Downey game in 2012.
“Our athletic director, Paul Hogue, is dialed in,” Merced associate principal Kevin Swartwood said. “Having that checklist from two years ago is monumental. We’ve made a few changes. Last time, the band was near the concession stands, and that area got too crowded, so we moved them to the other end zone.
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“The biggest obstacles are parking and seating. I think we’ll have plenty of seats, but there will be some people standing. I’ve been to a lot of stadiums, and I’ve been to schools that have less parking than we have.”
Here are a few items on the checklist:
Hogue believes hosting a game on campus allows kids who can’t make the trip across town to Veterans Stadium an opportunity to attend a football game. As part of the homecoming festivities, the school is also hosting a carnival that will begin in the quad at 4:30 p.m.
“This game allows our kids to get here,” Hogue said. “Not all our kids can get to Veterans Stadium. Our kids aren’t able to get across town for a 7:30 night game. With the game here, we expect our kids to pack the house.”
Swartwood, who coached football for 30 years, spent most of his career at schools like Golden Valley, Merced and Buhach Colony, all of which played games off campus while he was there. He thinks Friday night will be special.
“I always wanted to come out of our own locker room onto our own field,” Swartwood said. “It’s our first-ever homecoming game on our campus. I think that’s huge.”