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 […]
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. 5 Leo Lions Field
Location: Leo High School
First season: 1967
Playing surface: Artificial turf
Named for: Gee, I wonder?
SCORE BREAKDOWN (1 – lowest; 5 – highest)
Game night atmosphere: 4
As soon as you turn onto Amstutz Road heading towards Leo High School on a Friday night, you know there is something big going on. When talking tailgating – whether it be adults or students – Leo has one of the strongest contingents of pre-game party folk in northeast Indiana.
Leo is one of those throwbacks in that the entire community is engaged and committed on a Friday night. There are no secondary plans in Leo-Cedarville when the Lions are at home, it is Leo football night. Period.
What strikes OTH about game nights at Leo is the generational fan presence. Older Leo fans mingle with families who mingle with those who are the future of Leo football. Youth programs down to elementary school are a constant, with the young kids both ignoring the game to play on their own, but also idolizing the current crop of Lions.
It all adds up to a magical experience on the turf at Leo Lions Field each fall.
The recent addition of turf ups the score considerably. We at OTH are partial to grass, but there is no denying that the vibrant purple Lion logo at midfield and the colorful end zones add to the experience. The remodeled locker rooms are also more spacious and are a touch better than most others around.
Both sides of bleachers have a decent amount of seating, although there is room for growth, as huge postseason games can be tough to find everyone a spot.
The press box is large enough to comfortably seat the game workers, coaches of both sides and media. The ability to overhear yelling and pounding from a coach in one of the boxes adds some definite charm.
Concession fare is always on point at Leo. Play your cards right and you could get a hand out in the parking lot of some solid tailgating food as well.
The bathrooms are comfortably close and parking is nearby as well, although it can be a congestive nightmare to get out in post-game.
Team success: 3.5
Apart from Jared Sauder’s first year at the helm, he has led the Lions to 13 straight winning seasons, including a 10-victory effort last year.
Eight conference championships between the ACAC and NE8 since 2009 also show the consistency of Leo as one of the winningest programs in northeast Indiana.
But recent postseason success has eluded the Lions, with the last sectional crown coming in 2011. Overall, Leo has won just three sectional titles – 1995, 2010 and 2011. A pair of regional championships in 2010 and 2011 still resonate, particularly the 14-10 victory over West Lafayette in regional play in 2010.
However, the greatest game ever played at Leo Lions Field may have been the 35-14 beatdown of Bishop Dwenger in the sectional final in 2011. For obvious reasons, slaying the giant that is Dwenger in convincing fashion to win a sectional trophy was a huge moment in Leo football history.
Total score: 14.75
East Noble coach Luke Amstutz: “Playing at Leo is an awesome experience. Over time they have become our biggest rivals, and the NE8 championship is nearly always decided in that game. It’s a unique setting. In town on Amstutz Road with a cemetery to the east where all my family is buried, and intense fans and student section all over you all night. After the upgrades to the field and locker rooms, I think it’s definitely one of the top places to play in the area, and Coach Sauder always has his team ready to play. A Friday night in Leo is something to remember.”
Leo coach/former player Jared Sauder: “The special thing about our field is the sense of community that you get on Friday nights and the great community support that surrounds not just football, but all of our athletic programs. From the pre-game tailgates to our “super fan” section of students, it is a great atmosphere for high school football! I can remember as an elementary school kid being excited about Friday night’s game, with the crowd and the fans and that’s continued for me as both a player and a coach.”
Leo is the entire package. While nothing is overly flashy or obvious, the combination of a consistently winning team with plenty of community support on a fine piece of artificial turf translates into a solid combination, putting Leo Lions Field in our top 5.
Leo athletics are well supported and have some of the best people around to deal with. They run a first-class operation highlighted by football home games.
Coming Monday: No. 4