The biggest change for Beatty High School football players this year isn’t a new coach or a hotshot transfer. In fact, it’s right under their feet.
When the Hornets take the field this season, that field will not be the ragged patches of fragile grass of years past, but an artificial surface that opens a new era for Beatty sports. The school also has a new baseball field.
The new football field was needed desperately, according to Leo Verzilli, Beatty’s athletic director and head coach of the Hornets’ football and baseball teams.
“If anyone needed — not wanted, but needed — a new field, it would have been Beatty,” Verzilli said. “Everything was bad. We really did need the artificial turf.”
Not that the Nye County School District didn’t try to grow grass. In fact, it tried a lot.
“It was disgustingly bad,” Verzilli said. “For some reason, they just couldn’t get grass to grow. They tried everything. They tried to seed, they tried to spray, they tried turf, sod. We couldn’t get a good root system going. We’d have some grass growing, but then it’s time to play your season and you tear up that young grass.”
Trying to get the field right with natural grass proved frustrating.
In 2012, several inches of soil were removed from the field, and new soil and sod were brought in. That effort failed.
In 2013, $50,000 was spent to restore the football field, but by midseason it looked the way it had before work was begun. Poor maintenance and burros getting onto the field were blamed.
In 2014, the Hornets played home games on their baseball field, which does not have lights, because the seeding on the football field failed as flooding washed away the seed.
In 2015, $75,000 was spent to restore the field after soil samples revealed unfavorable conditions for growing turf, but the project went over budget because of the need for additional soil. It didn’t help.
Now there is a first-class field to play on and, perhaps even more important, for practice.
“I think it will help our passing game more than anything else,” Verzilli said. “We’ll have some landmarks for kids to reference now. Before, we were practicing on the baseball field. Things change so much when you’re on an actual field. Until you actually get on a football field and see the width and see the depth and know where your lane is supposed to be … it comes into their minds better when you’re on an actual football field.
“With all the markings on the field, I think our passing game should be better. You tell somebody they’re supposed to go 10 yards out, what’s 10 yards? Or if you’re on the left hash, where’s the left hash? All those field markings are on the artificial turf.”
Beatty now can become something of a mecca for small-school sports. Verzilli was enthusiastic about the Hornets’ fields being used by more than just the Hornets.
“We can share this thing with other people,” he said. “Nobody is going to say no if Tonopah wants to meet Alamo halfway instead of one of them making a four- or five-hour trip. Round Mountain, Tonopah, those guys are more than welcome to use our field if they want to meet someone halfway if we’re not there.”
Beatty’s geographical position makes it a natural stop at playoff time, Verzilli said, either as a neutral site or a place to stop off during a long bus trip when northern schools and southern schools meet in the postseason.
“A lot of times teams will call me from up north if the playoffs are down here in the south,” he said. “They’d like to stop off in Beatty and get a stretch, get an hour, hour-and-a-half practice and then drive the rest of the way to Vegas to play the next day.
“Now, we have a nice facility for anybody who wants to stop halfway. We’re a great midway point for our leagues with our baseball field. We can host playoffs and state baseball games.”
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter:@pvtimes