Earlier this week, Father Ryan president Jim McIntyre gazed down at the field from the press box at the school’s brand new football stadium.
He took a few moments from his busy schedule to make sure everything was in working order at the Jim Carell complex. He was touching up final plans for the Irish’s clash Friday night against Hillwood — a game marking the stadium’s first game.
School officials are expecting a huge crowd to fill the 2,376-seat stadium. And there’s plenty of room around the fences to accommodate an overflow crowd at the school, located on Norwood Drive, just off Franklin Road.
“It’s something which has been three years in the making, and a year from the first ground breaking,’’ he said. “At 7 p.m. Friday, everything will come into place.’’
No more traveling around town to places like Vanderbilt, Greer Stadium or Bellevue Middle School to play “home’’ games.
No, this time, it’s home sweet home.
“I know how Dorothy felt in the movie The Wizard of Oz when she clicked those red shoes three times, closed her eyes and said, ‘there’s no place like home.’ It’s a little surreal,’’ McIntyre said.
As quarterback Trey McPhail said recently, “finally, we won’t have to take 10 bus trips to our games any more. We’ll go right from our locker room to the field.’’
McPhail and his teammates will start a tradition when they run out onto the field — they will touch the shield, depicting the school’s insignia, which is engraved in a three-foot high stone in the end zone. It’s a tradition similar to that at Notre Dame.
Prior to the kickoff, special recognition will given to Jim Carell, the man behind the financial part of the project and to family members of the late Charley Giacosa, whom the stadium is named after — “a beloved teacher at Ryan in the 1960s,’’ McIntyre said.
Ryan has played a couple of games on campus over the past 10 years with temporary bleachers installed. But the permanent stadium is a first for the 84-year old school.
A small graphics board is located atop the scoreboard, which McIntyre believes is a first for Nashville high schools.
Asked about watching the dream come to fruition on his watch, McIntyre said, “It’s very humbling. I’m so honored to be here. This has come about through the efforts of so many alumni and friends of the school, who worked tirelessly for this to happen. It’s a beautiful facility which rose out of the dirt.’’
“When we had the Lights Out ceremony on Aug. 8,’’ McIntyre said, “so many fans came out to see it. To see them take off their shoes and run around the field for that first time was very special.’’
The eight-lane track, which encompasses the field, with adjacent field event sites, was also completed recently. McIntyre said he hopes to line up some top-line track events next spring.
“The names of all those on those dedication bricks represents all the sacrifices and the giving by so many,’’ he said.
For Coach Bruce Lussier, he is just trying to get his team ready for the game and bounce back from a very disappointing 21-20 loss at Overton.
“After we lost to Overton, I want our team focused just on that game (with Hillwood),’’ he said.
“Obviously, this (the stadium’s first game) is a huge deal for fans and alumni, with the tradition and significance of it, and we’re glad to be a part of that. But this is the next game for us. Come 7 o’clock Friday, we want to be totally focused and start out on the right foot at home.’’
For fans coming to the game, there is a huge buzz and excitement. But for McIntyre and the school administration, he says the feeling has “kind of a calm and an ease about it.’’
Wake up the echoes, indeed.
Centennial at Antioch
Marshall County at BGA
Lexington Chr. at CPA
Westmoreland at East Lit
Hillwood at Father Ryan
Pope JPII at Gallatin
Whites Creek at Hillsboro
Maplewood at MBA
Mt. Juliet at McGavock
FRA at Riverside Christian
Overton at Stratford
Smyrna at Brentwood High
Southwind at Brentwood Acad.
Ravenwood at Goodpasture
Oakland at Independence
Ezell-Harding at NCS
Pearl-Cohn at Northeast
Glencliff at Sycamore
Franklin at Christian County, Ky.