Home is where the heart is… but not where the Knights have been


File Photo: Unplayable conditions at North Penn's Crawford Stadium in September 2018.

TOWAMENCIN- There are always great high school football stories that we hear about.  The entire community gathers in one place to support their high school under the Friday night lights.  And it is the same case at North Penn High School.  Students, parents, grandparents, and alumni all pack into Crawford stadium to support the Knights.  However, the field and stadium have let down the fans and community along with the team this season as well as other North Penn teams this year and in years past.

The North Penn Knights football team is currently 13-0 and the number one seed in district playoffs, as they prepare to take on Coatesville in this Friday’s 6A District One title game.  But they have not played one playoff game on their home field at Crawford Stadium.  Why?  Because North Penn is one of the few schools who does not have a turf field for their football team, but rather a grass field that has not held up well in the rain soaked autumn of 2018.  And no, the turf field at NPHS does not count because we have seen what happens when a football game is played there.  There are not enough seats available and the players on the sideline block the view of spectators.

So instead, the football squad played at Wissahickon High School since they have a turf field.  The Knights made it to the district semifinals and were set to take on the Downingtown West Whippets.  Well it snowed the day before and the field at Wissahickon was not able to be played on.  So, the game was moved to Downingtown West High School.  So, let’s see, the Knights earned home field advantage throughout the playoffs but somehow not only haven’t played in their home stadium, but they actually played a game in their opponent’s building.  To be completely honest, it’s embarrassing.

Pictured here are The Downingtown High School athletic fields- a football stadium and a soccer/track facility adjacent to the stadium .

How about that one turf field NPHS does have. First of all, one is not enough.  There are always scheduling problems with the turf field because sports teams rely on it.  Just this past fall sports season, all of the following teams used the turf field at least once: the football team, the boys’ soccer team, the girls’ soccer team, the field hockey team, and the marching band who used the field to practice on and to hold their community night last week.  Five teams used one field and that’s just in the fall.

The North Penn School board’s support services committee held a community forum last week regarding building and renovation needs, which is a great step from North Penn administration.  A gentleman in the crowd spoke about how his son, who is on the lacrosse team, had a practice from 8:00- 10:00pm on a school night because that was the only time the field was available. Inadequate facilities begin to affects academics now, when teams are scurrying for space at inconvenient evening hours.

Image courtesy of North Penn Football/ Twelfth Knight Facebook post
North Penn takes on Downingtown at Kottemeyer Stadium in Downingtown on Friday, November 16, 2018.

And why don’t you ask the soccer teams how they feel about the turf field.  The boys’ soccer team had the #3 seed for district playoffs.  Where did they play their second-round matchup (they had a first round bye)?  At Christopher Dock High School.  Why? North Penn elected to play at a field that has larger dimensions, more conducive to competitive high school soccer, which is not the case at the NPHS turf field, which has dimensions smaller than most high school soccer fields.

“The soccer team definitely played better on bigger fields this past season, so it’s a shame that the size of our turf [field] was a big equalizer for some teams,” junior soccer player Carter Houlihan said.

And those baseball/softball fields?  Neither field holds water exceptionally well, and of course the result has been postponements, while several local high schools have converted their fields to artificial turf, including the baseball fields at Plymouth Whitemarsh, Archbishop Carroll, and Springfield Montco – a movement that is now more so the norm for college baseball and softball fields in this part of the country. In the 2017 district semifinals when the baseball team earned a home playoff game vs Perk Valley, they had to travel to a neutral site at Villanova for their game, because of standing water on the North Penn field.

I don’t want anyone to think that I am anti-North Penn or dislike the school district.  I love the North Penn School District.  I started in this school district as a kindergartener;  I am proud to walk the halls of North Penn High School every day.  The bricks and mortar  at North Penn have provided me and many others with a great education, endless opportunities, and a community I am proud to be a part of.  But there is always room for improvement.  And improving the athletic facilities at North Penn High School is the improvement we need right now.

As of the time of publication of this article, the Knights do plan to host Coatesville this Friday night at Crawford Stadium in a 7pm District Title game provided weather conditions throughout the week hold up.