Friday night will be an evening of firsts in Tallmadge.

When Tallmadge hosts Ravenna in the 2019 season opener, the Blue Devils and Ravens will play the inaugural high school football game at Blue Devil Stadium, a $7.8 million facility that includes new locker rooms, seating, a concession stand and a scoreboard.

The game will also be the first on the new turf field, and Tallmadge's Mike Hay, 39, will pace the sidelines for the first time as a head coach.

“I have that rare opportunity to be the head coach of the school I played for,” said Hay, a 1998 Tallmadge graduate and a 2002 Malone graduate. “I am very excited. ... The chance to run the guys out of the locker room in a brand new stadium with what I am hoping is a very, very large crowd is something that is special.”

Tallmadge assistants Dave Staszak, Niko Skeriotis, Davis Moore, Chris Raybuck, Steve McAninch, Harrison Crawford, Derek Dalton and Logan Banks are all Tallmadge graduates, Hay said.

The new stadium, which has a seating capacity of 3,500 and features an eight-lane all-weather track, was made possible when taxpayers voted for a 0.9-mill bond in November 2016, Tallmadge Treasurer Jeff Hostetler said.

The Blue Devils will also host games in weeks 2 and 3 against Ellet and Coventry, respectively.

Hay, who played for the Blue Devils under coaches Jeff Ferguson and Jeff Moore, was an assistant for the past 18 seasons at Rossiaky Stadium under Moore (2001), Joe Vassalotti (2002-2014), Scott Pollock (2015) and Alan Vanderink (2016-2018).

“The stadium is long overdue, and we are thrilled to have this opportunity,” Hay said.

“We have a motto that is ‘new era, same tradition,’ ” Tallmadge senior running back-linebacker Jesse Kanatzar said. “We want to keep that same tradition of making the playoffs like we did so many years in a row in the past.”

Kanatzar is part of a senior class that includes quarterback Drew Cross and two-way lineman Ben Blankenship.

“Being able to open a new stadium for the community is something special in Tallmadge because most of the people coming to watch the games have watched us grow up,” Cross said. “... I remember going to the games and sitting in the stands with my dad. He was teaching me everything about football that I didn’t know, which was a lot.

"My big guy was Anthony Gotto. I thought he was an NFL star [when he played quarterback at Tallmadge from 2009-2012].”

Kanatzar said he was a ballboy at Tallmadge, and recalled watching Gotto and then Joseph Vassalotti play quarterback in 2013 and 2014.

 

Updates at Copley

Copley Stadium is also experiencing change with first-year head coach Jake Parsons and a new turf field that cost a little over $548,000, according to Athletic Director Andy Jalwan.

Copley opens the season at home with games against Twinsburg and Firestone.

Barberton, Chippewa, Ellet and Mogadore will also have new synthetic turf fields this season.

Parsons, 34, spent the past 10 years as an assistant with stints at Maple Heights, Canton McKinley and Strongsville. His assistants are Copley graduates Doug Allen, Jim Dies and Aregeros Turner.

“They really spared no expense with the turf,” said Parsons, a graduate of Upper Merion [Pennsylvania] in 2003 and Kent State in 2008. “They paid extra money for [a heavier infill] for safety, and they also placed these new top-grade pellets, which can lower the heat index on the field considerably.”

The pellets in Copley’s new turf are green, instead of the customary black pellets.

“The top layer of black pellets can really absorb the heat and then it transfers to the feet,” Parsons said. “It gets really hot. The top layer of green pellets, which is an added expense that the district was willing to pick up, has really made the turf like an all-weather surface.”

“The turf has given a new look to the high school and where we are playing, but it is also something for the community to be excited about,” said Copley senior Jackson Madden, a quarterback, safety, kicker and punter.

“... Everyone is really excited to be on the turf and it looks great as well, especially after what we had, which was starting to get dangerous in terms of how hard it was and turf burns. The turf has revamped the energy in the program, and then coach Parsons has done the same thing.”

Two-way lineman Brendan Roddy and defensive back-wide receiver Drew Ransom said they are excited about their senior seasons.

“It is fantastic that I get to play on a new field for my senior year,” Roddy said. “I love it and Copley in general — I love being around the people.”

 

Michael Beaven can be reached at mbeaven@thebeaconjournal.com.