After years of being “Moving Mustangs,” St. Mary’s Catholic School in Gainesville finally has a home football field.
St. Mary’s had not had its own field for 62 years. The Mustangs only played road games and did not even have home uniforms.
“(It) kind of made it hard for parents,” Principal Kim Otto said. “Support for the team, as far as parishioners or other parents and students coming, it was limited. So, we felt like this would be a great reason to show our support.”
St. Mary’s debuted its new field last season. The school did not advertise it much to keep crowds small during the pandemic, but coach Dusty Turner said around 300-400 people came to the first game.
“You talk about a community that came together,” Turner said. “Something that brings the community together, that was the whole idea of getting the football program here, is to get some excitement. The more people you get here on the field, the more people we can get into the school, the more people you can get into the church.”
The field is across North Weaver Street from the school at the former site of Ben Franklin Elementary School. Former student Ryan Wolf provided the goalposts for his Eagle Scout project. The scoreboard is an old Muenster ISD scoreboard which was recently painted blue. Many other people and groups pitched in to get the field ready to play.
In their first home season, the Mustangs quickly learned a lot of things are involved in hosting games.
“First game, I was nervous,” Turner said. “I’m a volunteer. I’ve never hosted a football game. The national anthem and the pregame prayer and the stands and the hotdogs everybody was selling, that stuff came together by everybody. Last minute, we were ordering the sideline markers… We forgot about that. Where do we get paint for the field? It was nerve-racking.”
Referees are paid by the home team, so St. Mary’s has had to figure out ways to raise funds. There is not currently a fence around the field, though Otto said it is on the wish list for the future. Without a fence and controlled entry, it is difficult to charge admission. The Knights of Columbus sell concessions to help pay costs, but Otto said St. Mary’s may begin asking for donations, as well.
St. Mary’s recently reorganized into playing six-man football. Turner said he encourages anyone not familiar with six-man to come see an exciting type of football.
“It’s fun,” Turner said. “It’s exciting. It’s high-scoring. It’s basketball and football basically wrapped up in one sport. It’s a track meet every play, almost.”
The Mustangs are already thinking about the future. Someday, St. Mary’s hopes to introduce a soccer program and play on the same field. The goalposts were intentionally designed in an H-shape so a soccer goal could be attached below the crossbar. Mustang soccer is a dream which will take time, however. It is likely not in the immediate future.
As St. Mary’s prepares for its second season with a home field, Otto said she is thankful for all the people who helped make the field a reality.
“I’m just appreciative of the fact that so many alumni come back here and give back to the school,” Otto said. “Whether it’s their time, their talent, their money, it all comes in handy.”