Favorite road sites
By MIKE HAINES
This is a fun time of year for playoff football teams. Not only do they get to play in big games in front of large crowds, but many teams get to travel to new and different venues.
So for this week, Press Pass decided to talk to some coaches around the area about their favorite places to play road games. Below are the most popular respones and reasons for the choices.
Tiger Stadium was the top choice for Lehighton's George Ebbert, who played and coached there when the Northwestern and the Indians both played in the Centennial League.
"It's a carnival-like atmosphere," he said. "They're selling popcorn and cotton candy."
Palmerton's Paul McArdle likes that "the facilities are top-notch and there is always a big crowd" in New Tripoli and said it's second to only Wilson's Smith Field on his list of favorite road trips in the Colonial League.
Tamaqua's Sam Bonner, a former Northern Lehigh assistant, also said he likes the atmosphere on Friday night's in New Tripoli.
Marian head coach Stan Dakosty's first response was the Silver Bowl, saying "It's like Friday Night Lights" with the large crowds and big-game atmosphere every week.
Northern Lehigh boss Joe Tout, who played at Panther Valley, always looked up at the board listing the program's accomplishments, although he was well aware of the history of the Tornadoes.
"Years ago they would allow fans to stand at a fence line right outside of the opposing locker room," he said. "As you would leave you would be heckled by the fans. It was just an experience that stuck with me for years."
Tout and McArdle both listed their high school alma mater. It will always be their home away from home. But it's also a special place for Bonner, who played at Jim Thorpe and is the son of a former Nesquehoning High School player.
"It's a rival," Bonner said. "There's a lot of tradition in that stadium. It still has that old-style atmosphere and the field is very well-kept."
Tout liked the old end-zone bleachers that stood in the 1980s, as well as the covered bleachers and large cement wall. He also likes the new renovations.
"That stadium is one of the nicest stadiums in the region and I would love for our kids here [at Northern Lehigh] to have a chance to play in a stadium like that at some point."
McArdle said "For me, personally, there is nothing like a big Panther Valley game at the stadium in Lansford."
Dakosty and Bonner both like playing on the turf. Dakosty listed it as his favorite on Marian's current schedule.
Bonner said "Haven's field is beautiful. And we don't normally play on a turf field."
Dakosty said he likes the little things such as the Hurricanes' nice locker rooms.
Tout and Northwestern's Bob Mitchell like the Saturday afternoon trek up the hill to face the Green Knights as much as any trip they take in the Colonial League.
Mitchell met Pen Argyl in several playoff games there in the early part of this decade and said he likes the atmosphere there.
Tout likes the way players walk through a tailgating area between the locker room and stadium.
"The stadium is literally part of the Blue Mountain so going there in fall is a special experience," he said. "The visiting side seems to be on the edge of the mountain with not a lot of seating for the fans, so it is a unique experience playing there.
Easton - Dakosty's team scrimmaged the Rovers for years at Cottingham Stadium, home to one of the state's oldest and most successful programs. "There's so much history," he said. Tout said it's another place that he'd love to take the Bulldogs to play one day.
Wilson - McArdle likened the Saturday crowds at Smith Field to a "small college town. And it's a big reason why they have won 34 straight games there."
Pottsville - Dakosty puts the home of the Crimson Tide just behind Mount Carmel on his list. "It's a big stadium," he said. "It's the County Seat. They come out with a 200-member band."
Pleasant Valley - Ebbert likes going there for the turf and because it is a large stadium.
Palmerton - Bonner liked making annual late-season trips to Northwestern and Palmerton when he was an assistant under Jim Tkach at Northern Lehigh.
Bethlehem School District Stadium - Mitchell has fond memories of his sons playing there when they attended Bethlehem Catholic. He also likes the place because his Northwestern team pulled off one of the biggest upsets in District 11 football history there when it knocked off top-seeded Bethlehem Catholic in the first round of the 2006 playoffs, long after his sons had graduated.
Hershey - Probably Mitchell's favorite win in his career came in Hershey when his 1997 team, led by Josh Snyder, the Tigers beat Bishop McDevitt in the state playoffs and reached the PIAA Eastern final.