High School to Install Synthetic Turf Field

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)


Jeff Highfill might have drawn up a play or two in the home stadium dirt during his 37 seasons as the head football coach at William Byrd High School.

No more.

Within the next month, work is scheduled to begin on the installation of an artificial turf surface at Byrd, replacing the natural grass that has been in place since the Terriers first kicked a football.

The new field should be ready for the 2017 season opener, making Byrd 's the fifth high school football facility in the Roanoke Valley to have artificial turf installed within the last decade.

To Highfill, the fake grass is not ideal but it is wholly necessary.

Byrd's field is subject to much use and abuse.

Varsity, JV and middle-school football, boys and girls soccer and boys and girls lacrosse teams all use the facility, which took a severe beating this fall during Byrd's home football game against Staunton River.

Finally, too much was too much.

"In our situation, it's all good," Highfill said. "I'd much rather have a beautiful grass field that nobody gets on. I think most of the players I know that have played on both would choose that, too.

"All the wear and tear we've got, I don't think there's any way to keep a good field unless we go to turf."

Highfill said when he arrived at Byrd in 1981, the field's only tenants were the varsity and JV football teams, and the boys soccer squad.

"In my first year, people were on the game field a total of 13 times for the whole year," Highfill said. "Nobody practiced on it. A couple years ago, we had 88 games on it.

"And for 20 years, I practiced soccer on it every day. In the mid-90s when we started adding all the girls teams and the middle-school teams, we ran out of practice fields."

Other improvements are planned, including new lights, a rubberized six-lane track and new practice fields adjacent to the stadium.

"The plan is for the football field to be ready at the end of July," Highfill said. "At that point, I don't know if they'll go directly to the practice fields and we'll practice on the game field during that time.

"There might be a little delay where we use the practice field, but they'll have to get those started so they can be ready by the spring."

Byrd will join Salem Stadium, Dwight Bogle Stadium and Patrick Henry and William Fleming high schools' stadiums as Roanoke Valley facilities with artificial turf.

Highfill never believed he would coach long enough to see the day.

"No," he said, "but with our situation, it's certainly the right way to go."

Copenhavers, Goff slated for induction to GW hall

Al and Mary Copenhaver - the husband and wife coaching duo who each led George Wythe to a VHSL basketball championship - headline the 2017 class of the Wythe County Sports Hall of Fame.

Former George Wythe football and basketball star Geoff Goff (class of 1991) also will be inducted during a ceremony in early November.

Al Copenhaver had a 451-113 record in 21 seasons as the boys coach at George Wythe, leading the Maroons to the 2008 Group A Division 2 state title.

He never had a losing season and did not draw a single technical foul in 31 years of coaching.

Mary Copenhaver coached George Wythe's girls for 11 seasons, producing a Group AA championship in 1989 and a Group A runner-up finish in 1992.

Her career coaching record was 368-140, including 13 seasons at G.W. Carver High in Henry County, where she led the Trojans to Group A runner-up finishes in girls basketball and outdoor track and field.

Goff was a first-team Group A all-state linebacker in football and first-team all-state in basketball.

He played four years at VMI as a placekicker where he ended his career ranked No. 3 in field goals made .

Williams, Phillips brothers highlight Bath Co. class

The recent induction into the Bath County Athletic Hall of Fame was a family affair.

Two sets of brothers who graduated from Bath County High School - Rayna, Chris and Tim Williams; and Jacob and John Phillips - highlighted the March 18 induction ceremony that also included a former Chargers girls star and a pair of Valley High School graduates.

The inductees were:

Jake Cleek (Valley, class of 1951), who played football and baseball at Valley before playing four sports during a college career at Lynchburg and Bridgewater. Cleek returned to the county where he became a coach, principal and county school official.

Frank Hepler (Valley, 1955), who played football, basketball, baseball and golf before becoming a golf club professional in Maryland.

Rayna Williams (Bath County, 1988), who made All-Timesland in football and baseball while starring in basketball. Williams was the starting quarterback on three Ferrum teams that made the NCAA Division III playoffs, and he played catcher on four Ferrum teams that reached the postseason.

Chris Williams (Bath County, 1990), who was the Pioneer District football player of the year in 1990 and a star on the baseball team that reached the Group A state tournament. Williams played baseball at James Madison, making the All-CAA first team as a senior.

Tim Williams (Bath County, 1991), a four-sport star who was the Pioneer District football player of the year and three-time Bath County male athlete of the year, rushing for 2,311 yards in football as a senior for a 12-1 team. He played football and baseball at VMI.

Jacob Phillips (Bath County, 2004), who had a 48-4 record as a starting quarterback in football, leading the Chargers to the 2001 Group A Division 1 state title. He scored 1,524 career points and basketball and was a four-time All-Pioneer pick in baseball. Phillips became a two-time all-conference quarterback at William and Mary.

John Phillips (Bath County, 2005), who starred in football, basketball and baseball, earning VHSCA co-defensive player of the year honors in football in 2004. He played tight end at Virginia and was taken in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL draft by Dallas. He has played in the NFL for the past eight seasons.

Katie Hardbarger Grist (Bath County, 1998), who starred in basketball, tennis, volleyball and track and field. She was the Pioneer basketball player of the year, finishing with 1,220 career points. She played basketball for four years at JMU, making the CAA All-Academic team.

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April 12, 2017


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