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Artificial turf brings plenty of peace of mind

There is something to be said about the aesthetic appeal of a natural grass football field. As the saying goes, if you don’t have dirt on your uniform you haven’t played.

The modern versions of artificial turf are more likely to leave you with black smudges on your jersey and enough rubber pellets in your shoes to make you empty them out like at the end of a day at the beach.

It’s hard to deny, however, the functional appeal of turf, especially after Week 1 of the high school football season.

In the days leading up to the 2019 Red Carpet Bowl, it allowed Warren Central’s Viking Stadium to serve as a central practice facility for both its primary tenants and Vicksburg High’s team.

Construction crews are still installing the turf at VHS’ Memorial Stadium, and doing work on the adjacent practice field. The Gators have been bussing to the nearby City Park softball fields and Vicksburg Junior High for practices.

Last week, Warren Central’s coaches allowed their crosstown counterparts to use Viking Stadium for a few morning workouts. It was a gesture that would have been unthinkable before this year, and not because of the rivalry between the schools. With two games scheduled for the stadium on Friday, keeping the grass fresh would have been paramount. Instead, there was no worry of tearing it up.

Then, come Friday night, a pregame thunderstorm skittered around the edges of Highway 27. Numerous lightning bolts crashed down within a few miles of the stadium, and bad memories filtered in.

In 2016, Memorial Stadium’s turf was chewed up so badly by the combination of heavy rain and two games that it had to be replaced. In 2018, persistent thunderstorms brought an early end to one game and led to the cancellation of another.

On Friday, the weather was only an inconvenience and not a disaster. While players and fans waited out a 45-minute delay, Red Carpet Bowl organizers confidently said they would play both games in their entirety. Sure enough, once the storm moved away players began warmups.

As this season and others go on, there will be some nostalgia about the old grass. Its look and feel will be missed. Images of filthy, mud-covered football players will give way to moderately dirty ones.

It’s a bit of a loss, to be sure. But gaining the ability to play football without worrying about the weather is a gain.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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