EAST ROCKHILL — Pennridge football coach Jeff Hollenbach's final message to his team the day before the Rams' first home scrimmage was simple: “let's make a good first statement on this field.”
The Rams have a new home this fall, moving from traditional Poppy Yoder Field to the state-of-the-art turf field on the grounds right behind Pennridge High School.
As the Rams practiced, the stadium bleachers were in their final stages of construction.
“We practice up here a lot and we're comfortable with the field,” said Hollenbach, as hammers banged away in the background. “It's a really nice field. They're doing it the right way.”
The bleachers will hold 3,500 seats on one side, 1,500 on the other. The media-friendly facility will have a two-level press box on one side of the stadium as well as another press box on the other side, for opposing coaches.
Next year, there will be team rooms added at one end of the field, along with concession stands, and possibly a weight room. The look is similar to that of Souderton Area's.
“It's looking nice,” said senior Imeir Simmons, gazing over at the new bleachers shortly after practice wrapped up. “I can't wait. We're real excited about it.”
“We'll be the first Pennridge team to play here,” senior Sifee Good said proudly.
The Rams' first regular-season home game is scheduled for Sept. 26 against Neshaminy, in what will now be a Suburban One League National Conference contest.
The Rams are moving from the grass — and mud — of Poppy Yoder Field to the turf of their new digs. Saying goodbye to Poppy Yoder, however, was not easy.
“I, personally, can not drive past the field — can't do it,” Hollenbach said. “With the bleachers down and the lights down, it's so sad. For me, I grew up on that field. My dad coached on that field, I coached my boys on that field, so it's hard. Poppy Yoder was a great Pennridge tradition.”
With the bleachers and fans in such close proximity to the field, there was clearly a certain intimacy felt by everyone at Poppy Yoder, including opposing coaches and teams.
It was unique, and memorable. And, like an old friend, will be missed.
“We're saying goodbye,” Good said. “It's a little upsetting, but at the end of the day, you just hold your head up high and keep moving forward.”
“We're moving forward,” echoed Hollenbach. “We need to start making memories here at the new field. That's what it's all about.”
Follow Kev Hunter on Twitter @khunter10.