Jeannette rolls out the carpet for fans at McKee Stadium

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Thursday, August 29, 2019 | 9:02 PM


Jeannette football players have watched the transformation at McKee Stadium.

From a pooch punt away on their adjacent practice field, they’ve seen the old sod come up, the fresh foundation go down and the artificial turf get rolled out.

After a few practices on the sleek surface this week, the Jayhawks finally will get to play a home football game at new-look McKee on Friday night.

“It will be a great feeling to see everyone come out,” Jeannette quarterback James Sanders said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”

Jeannette school officials, fall and youth-level sports teams, the band, cheerleaders and a slew of fans took part in a dedication ceremony Thursday night at the stadium — Jeannette’s home for football since 1937. The playing field has always been grass.

“Jeannette is a small school and community, and we’ve always had that ‘why not us,’” Jeannette Superintendent Matt Jones said. “This field is a representation of us trying to move past that. This is the entirety of it. The field is exactly what we envisioned.”

Jeannette recognized former coaches and athletic directors Bob Murphy and Joe Mucci, other former ADs Matt Lebe and Anthony DeNunzio and former superintendents Vince Aiello, Sharon Marks and Matthew Hutcheson.

“I never thought I would see this (field) in my lifetime,” said Mucci, who guided Jeannette to WPIAL football titles in 1971, ’81 and ’83. “Just look around at all these people, all these kids here tonight. The tradition continues.”

With the buzz in the air created by the dedication and ribbon-cutting, the football team hopes for a good game for what is expected to be a large crowd for the home opener.

The Jayhawks host Leechburg on Friday in the WPIAL Class A Eastern Conference opener for both teams.

Jeannette has not lost a home game since 2016.

“I still pinch myself that this is actually happening,” said Jeannette football coach Roy Hall, an alum, former Jayhawks athlete and longtime supporter of the program. “The nice thing has been with practice. If it rains, we don’t have to worry about going down to the gym.”

As has become standard, those around the school’s sports programs continue to reinforce that the field will have many other uses. The boys and girls soccer teams will play at McKee, the band will use the field and even baseball and softball teams will have the opportunity to practice there in the spring.

Rain often has forced the football team indoors, whereas McKee will now give them a place to work out, rain or shine.

In past years, bad weather has forced Jeannette to move first-round football playoff games and late-season practices to neighboring schools.

“Hopefully we make the playoffs and we can play at home,” Hall said. “Hempfield was very gracious in letting us practice on their field and play there in the past.

“It will be nice to play on our own field.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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