Updated Mon, Sep 30, 2013 3:23 pm
The excitement of tailgating, watching high school football and reliving memories makes the atmosphere encompassing Memorial Field breathtaking.
Gallipolis, Ohio, is home to approximately 3,600 people.
For five or six Fridays a year, they all band together to watch their Friday night entertainment – the Gallia Academy High School football tam. The town puts everything on hold and marches its way to Memorial Field to watch its beloved Blue Devils.
Residents and community members who live in the houses surrounding Memorial Field take part in the tradition before every home game. They barbecue, grill and relax until the moments before kickoff, when they watch their hometown heroes walk down Memorial Field’s historic steps onto the grass.
Jake Bapst, a resident of Gallipolis, lives in a house that overlooks Memorial Field, and he partakes in the game day traditions like everyone else.
“It’s wonderful because this is small town America,” Bapst says. “It’s football on a Friday night, the chance to be on a high school football team, to be in the band, to be a cheerleader, it’s just great.”
Bapst has taken part in the culture since he moved from Rio Grande to Gallipolis in 1995.
“It’s a great feeling, and we’re fortunate in this part of the world to be able to do that,” he says.
The traditions encompassing game day are not only memories for the players, but for the alums who return to watch Blue Devils football. Several of those alums still call Gallipolis home to this day.
Lori Bailey also enjoys a house that overlooks Memorial Field, and she reminisces to when she was a Blue Devil herself.
“This field has gone back for quite a while,” Bailey says. “This was the field I marched on when I was in the band in high school. There is a lot of history, and it’s a good thing. It shows the community and our support of the kids and Friday night football.”
The Blue Devils coaching staff savors the traditions because of the amount of support their team receives. Offensive line coach Brad Harris loves the support from the bleachers and the homes above.
“It’s really nice to have that support, not only in the stands, but around the surrounding edges,” Harris says. “There’s nothing like home field advantage. Our kids feed off of it. You just can’t top it around here.”
Memorial Field has encountered some problems throughout the years.
The cherished field is also known as “The Pit” because the field is significantly lower than any of its surroundings. Houses surround 50 percent of the field. However, on the other side of the field is the Ohio River. The river has been known to flood, which in turn, floods Memorial Field.
Floods have gotten so bad in the past that water has reached the cross bars of the field goal posts, 10 feet off the ground.
There are plans in the works to build a new stadium closer to the high school, but those plans would require millions of dollars to commence years down the road.
A new stadium is a long way off, but there will be a changing of the guard when a new Memorial Field opens. However, the residents of Gallipolis agree that their support will not falter even though the game and the team they love may no longer be in their backyards.
Gallia Academy travels to Belfry Friday, Oct. 4, to take on the Pirates at 7:30 p.m.