The fan base for the Putnam County High football program made a strong showing at the 2021 regular season opener at Morgan County High. They were treated to a fine display from the War Eagles on all fronts, and so comes the anticipation of playing at home again on Al Reaves Field.
Only, the familiar grounds will look a little different on Friday night, a little bit greener and a whole lot brighter.
All summer, the Putnam County Charter School System aimed at changing the natural grass at Al Reaves Field to synthetic turf. SportsTurf, a company from Carroll County that’s changed many a stadium surface in the southeast, got to work on the project, one that school officials said came in under the projected budget. The green carpet is rolled out, the blue capital P is in the middle and the goalposts are up awaiting some gridiron battles.
“I want to thank the administration and the community support,” said War Eagle head coach Shaun Pope, who will lead the team against Jasper County High this Friday with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. “The kids love it. It looks good.”
When Putnam County played – and shut out – Morgan County in Madison, it was on natural grass. The scrimmage game at Oconee County High was on turf. While Pope admits to being an “old-school” guy more familiar with playing himself on solid ground, he recognizes so many schools are trending towards the synthetic grass. With everyone in the program excited about the change, he’s looking forward to a big performance to break it in.
Jasper County, a member of Region 3-AA, began its regular season on Aug. 20 falling to Mt. de Sales 17-7. Pope said he expects a tough game as the Monticello squad has good size and quality skill people. He said the expected starting quarterback – who stands at 6-2 and 200 pounds – had to miss the opening game but should be suited up to face the War Eagles.
What the Hurricanes will try to do is be the first to score on the Putnam defense that limited Morgan County to under 200 total yards in the 37-0 final. The other challenge is stopping a War Eagle rushing attack that went over 300 yards in Madison.
Pope lauded the work of his offensive line coach, Jackson Williamson, for getting several underclassmen, including two freshmen, ready for the season.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was Tino Reyes, who’s only blemish in the kicking game was when, according to Pope, the ball slipped off the tee on a PAT try. Otherwise, Reyes got four extra-points through plus his first field-goal attempt of 31 yards and was solid in kickoffs.
“No doubt, anytime you can flip field position, it’s huge for your defense and offense,” said Pope about the punts from DJ Bland, two of which pinned Morgan inside its 5-yard-line.