FARMINGTON — Roger Staubach once said “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”

If he ever went to Kemp Field on game night, the Dallas Cowboys’ Hall-of-Fame quarterback would have retracted that statement.

Getting out of the Mt. Blue Cougars’ temporary football home after a game was always an adventure. But the days of the Whittier Road bottleneck are gone, and even coach Gary Parlin is getting home a little earlier this year.

“We had a little get-together at our house after the game and my wife was shocked how quickly it got there,” Parlin said. “Getting the kids back (to the high school) from Kemp Field was a good 20 minutes at least.”

If traffic ever becomes an issue near Mt. Blue High School again, it will probably be on Friday night, when the Cougars host Lawrence in one of the most anticipated games of the season. It will be the first time the old Pine Tree Conference rivals have faced each other in the regular season since 2010 and could decide home field advantage in the playoffs.

Coincidentally, 2010 was also the final year of the old Caldwell Field. The new Caldwell Field opened last Friday night. Part of the high school’s $64 million renovation project, the field boasts an immaculate new grass field, new lights, new bleachers (except on the visitors side), a new concession stand with bathrooms, and one of the most spectacular views in Maine high school athletics.

The defending Class B champions christened their new field with a 49-20 win over Hampden Academy. The Cougars enjoyed all of the comforts of home and renewed a tradition that they went on hiatus during their two-year stint at Kemp Field.

“It’s nice to walk up to the school and it’s nice to get back to the tradition of touching the Caldwell Field sign. That felt pretty good,” Parlin said.

“We were all excited about that,” senior wide receiver Nate Backus said. “Coach Parlin was pretty big on that one. He kept emphasizing that, so we had to get the win for him.”

Pastoral Kemp Field served the Cougars well. They were 12-1 there and won their last 10 in a row. The atmosphere at the Friday night games was always electric at Kemp, where fans sitting in the bleachers and standing behind the fence ringing the field could practically reach out and touch a player.

As much as they enjoyed playing varsity football where they grew up playing youth football,  having to play home games 2.5 miles from the school wasn’t ideal for the players.

“We don’t have to take the bus ride over. We don’t have to put our helmets on later. We’re all set and ready to go,” Backus said. “We don’t have to go early. We’ve got the locker room to ourselves to get pumped up. It was nicer. It was more of a football experience (playing at Caldwell).”

The Cougars, who still practice at Kemp, got their first taste of that experience the day before the season-opener with their first practice at Caldwell.

“I thought we’d have one of those practices where everyone’s flying around, going crazy. But it was almost like they were in awe of this place,” Parlin said. “I’m glad we got a chance to practice on it.”

Thursday’s practice at Caldwell stoked the Cougars for Friday’s debut, said senior QB Andrew Pratt, who proved it by throwing for 342 yards and five touchdowns.

“I think we were all ready because we knew we were going to be playing out here tonight”  said Pratt. The field is named after his grandfather, Ray, the legendary Mt. Blue coach.

Caldwell Field remains a work in progress. The press box hasn’t been finished and bleachers for the visitor’s side are on the way.

Caldwell isn’t just for football. The soccer and field hockey teams are playing part of their home schedules on the field. The public address announcer welcomed fans to last week’s game by referring to it as Mt. Blue’s competition field, even though the granite Caldwell Field sign, one of the few holdovers from the old field, greeted them at the entrance.

“It’s Caldwell Field,” Parlin said. “The sign’s right up there. It’s Caldwell Field. Everybody who’s been involved with Mt. Blue football over the years, since our inception, believes and knows this should be Caldwell Field. Ray didn’t come up with the $500,000 to put turf on here, but it’s Caldwell Field.”


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