Among other damage to the facilities at Raymond Screws Field were two downed stadium light poles. West Orange coach Bob Head believes his team may have to play road games the rest of the season as a result of the damage.
WINTER GARDEN Bob Head had barely finished making sure his home was okay following Hurricane Irma Monday morning when he got a text, and later a call, informing him that his second home had not fared so well.
The messages informed the head coach of the West Orange football team that significant damage had befell Raymond Screws Field. Two of the stadium’s four light poles had come crashing down overnight, and the scoreboard had taken a beating, as well.
“We went ahead and drove over (to the school) because I was worried sick about the field,” Head said. “Everybody there was kind of looking at (the damage) and going ‘oh my God’ — we couldn’t believe it.”
The light poles that fell were the two opposite poles on the home and visitor sidelines, toward the north end zone.
The pole on the side of the home grandstand fell backward, with the lights crashing into a nearby portable. The main portable that was damaged, in an ironic coincidence, was that of Michelle Head — Bob’s wife and another member of the school’s faculty.
The pole on the visitors side fell forward toward the field, crashing through the visitors bleachers and with the lights shattering along the away team’s sideline.
A third pole, the south pole on the visitors side, has also concerned administrators with how it has swayed in the days following the storm.
With 50% of the fields lighting gone and glass shards dispersed throughout a significant portion of the turf playing surface, Head and other administrators are not optimistic that the field will be playable before the end of the season, meaning the Warriors may have to play their remaining seven games on the road — including the team’s Homecoming Game, which is scheduled for this coming Friday, Sept. 22.
A post on the school’s official Facebook page Friday afternoon confirmed that the game against the Bears would indeed take place at Cypress Creek, but also indicated that the crowning of the king and queen — typically done at halftime — would take place at the Homecoming Dance the next night (Sept. 23) at Disney’s Swan Hotel.
Although there remains a chance that Orange County Public Schools may provide temporary lighting for West Orange home games later in the season, or that some other solution could surface, Head said he and his staff are preparing for seven consecutive games on the road — no small task for a program that enjoys one of the best home-game atmospheres in Central Florida.
“Our band, our fans, the atmosphere — its a great experience for our team to play a home game. Everything from the pregame meal to getting ready in our locker room and coming out of our tunnel.”
— Bob Head, West Orange football coach
“It’s going to be a huge challenge — playing at home is a huge advantage for us because our fans are so great,” Head said. “Our band, our fans, the atmosphere — its a great experience for our team to play a home game. Everything from the pregame meal to getting ready in our locker room and coming out of our tunnel.”
The Warriors will return to practice Monday, as will all other Orange County Public Schools programs, after what has become a week-and-one-half break since most teams played their most recent game Sept. 7.
Whatever lies ahead for the team, Head — who mentioned that players have been texting nonstop to offer to help clean the field, which also had less significant damage to most of its windscreens — says it will rise to the challenge.
“Our team is going to be ready,” he said.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].