Mervo ready to light up city's sky

Mustangs' 51-game run on road to end with debut of lighted stadium tonight

High Schools

September 09, 2005|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

A bullhorn at his side during a practice nine days ago, John Blake sat in the aluminum stands of Mervo's new 1,000-seat football stadium.

His back pressed against a press box that is 20 yards long, Blake proudly pointed to his right toward a fully operational concession stand and men's and women's restrooms.

Across from Blake, beyond the 100 or so players running drills on a field surrounded by a track, was a scoreboard. Just past the scoreboard was perhaps the facility's most distinctive commodity - lights that enable the Mustangs to play at night.

Tonight at 7, the Mustangs and Northwestern will christen Mervo's new football stadium - a facility that will make Mervo the first high school in Baltimore City to hold night games.

"It's been a long time coming," said Blake, 54, referring to a project that began in 2000 and was supposed to be completed by the fall of 2001. "My father passed just before the season. He would have liked to have come and seen me coach games here. A lot of seniors had expected this to be done before they graduated, but now they're gone."

The facility's completion was delayed by a disagreement between city officials and the contractor over payment.

During Mervo's streak of 51 road games, players had to walk a half-mile every day for practice near the Lake Montebello reservoir. The trip included crossing nearby Hillen Road.

"Crossing through traffic, people would curse at us from their cars. Police would stop us and ask us what we were doing, where we thought we were going," Mervo senior Walter Sanders said. "It was crazy."

Senior Larry Forman is grateful the situation has ended.

"It seemed like every year since our sophomore year we would be told that we should be ready to play in the new stadium, on a new field, under the lights," Forman said. "We would be told that they were getting everything together, and we would get our hopes up. But then it wouldn't work out again. We thought that was going to happen again for this season, but thank God, it didn't."

Senior Jerrell Spears said he has envisioned what will happen tonight on numerous occasions.

"You're running out onto the field, looking over your shoulder into the stands," said Spears, who will get to play his first home game in front of his mother, Sharon Goodman, and 10-year-old sister, Angelique.

"First, we'll be stretching it out. Then, at 7 o'clock, that's when Northwestern's going to get it. That's when it's going to be time to go to work on our own field, in front of our own crowd.

"I know that - with the rest of the [the city's football games] being played in the afternoon, everybody from the rest of the city is going to be here to watch us. Having your home-field advantage, your family, your friends behind you, we have to do it the right way. We have to show the underclassmen how they have to do it in the future, because this is going to be history, and everyone's going to look back on that night and say, `That's where it all started,' and it starts with us."

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