Outside the Huddle is profiling which 10 area football stadiums it feels are the best around as we count down the days until (hopefully) the start of football season in August.
Each facility is rated on four factors – game night atmosphere, design, amenities and team success, as well as testimonials from the home team, the opposition and the enigmatic Blitz himself.
No. 6 Dean Gorsuch Athletic Facility
Location: Carroll High School
First season: 1968
Playing surface: Grass
Named for: Former Carroll High School athletic director Dean Gorsuch.
SCORE BREAKDOWN (1 – lowest; 5 – highest)
Game night atmosphere: 4
It feels as if all of Huntertown shows out on Friday nights at Carroll home games. From the pre-game pageantry with the Chargers taking the field to the crowd cramming into overflow seating with portable bleachers, there is plenty to like here.
“Neon Nation” is one of the top student sections around, always loud, boisterous and easy to recognize in their bright garb. The students are knowledgeable and hammer home their cheers loud and proud.
As Carroll has grown over the years, so have the crowds on Fridays, to the point that there is scarcely enough room for everyone. The fan base supports the Chargers in a way that rivals the best around.
There is no doubt that the Dean Gorsuch Athletic Facility is showing its age. The press box is notoriously puny, especially for a 6A program. However, the field is as well-kept as any in the area. Even when Mother Nature throws its worst at northeast Indiana in the late summer and early fall, the maintenance crew in charge of the field always seem to have it in tip-top shape.
There is plenty of seating for home fans, as well as the band that normally occupies the seating beyond the north end zone.
Parking is ample, but feels like a half-mile away from the entrance. Speaking of, the entrance can back up significantly with people on big game nights.
The locker rooms are a ways away from the field itself, leading to a walk from the main high school building.
This is where Carroll excels. A game day “Chargers Store” resides near the entrance, something rarely seen elsewhere.
Want an ice cream? A truck parks itself inside the stadium on the home side, with a line almost constant throughout the night.
Team success: 3
Carroll has won five sectional championships since 1998, but has never advanced past the regional round of the postseason tournament.
That said, the Chargers have become one of the steadiest programs in Allen County, finishing with a winning record in eight of the last nine years. The friendly confines at Carroll have been a big reason why the Chargers have been a consistent contender in the SAC since joining the league in 2015.
Concordia Lutheran coach Tim Mannigel: “Carroll is our second-favorite place to play in the conference. Their field is immaculate, the stadium setup is really well done and creates a great environment in which to play (from pre-game to in-game music) and the staff is super organized and takes great care of the opposing team on arrival. The small press box gets picked on publicly, but that’s a small price to pay for an overall great experience. Frankly, it’s a great place to take a high school football team to play.”
Carroll coach Doug Dinan: “Our facility has the finest natural grass field maybe in Indiana. The staff does a phenomenal job of maintaining the field. The Friday night environment is outstanding and the Neon Nation are always loud and in great support. (Athletic Director Dan Ginder) does a great job of making the event top notch. However, the issues of the current facility are well known and consequently we are in the process of building the best facility in northern Indiana that will be fan friendly, spacious, safe and great for all.”
While it does have shortcomings, football at Carroll is an endearing experience. Between the pristine field, big cheering section and extras such as the “game day store,” Carroll has much of Blitz’s checklist covered. The music selection may be the most balanced and energetic around, with a good mix of music that teenagers listen to and classics that please the parents and adults.
However, the new multi-million dollar football facility that is currently in the planning stages will put the existing field to shame and has the Carroll community and Blitz excited.
Coming Sunday: No. 5