New playing surface proving to be popular

Shaw Cloud can’t help but envision himself breaking into the open field when staring at Whiteland Community High School’s new football field.

The type of traction and durability an artificial surface ensures means endless possibilities for a running back, even one coming off a season in which he rumbled for 1,543 yards and 19 touchdowns.

“I’m extremely excited to play on it. It’s a different surface, but the same tradition,” said Cloud, who like every Warriors player before him rose through the Whiteland football program competing on grass fields, whether it was practices or home games.

“I love the Warrior head at the middle of the field,” Cloud said. “Hopefully, I’ll find myself in the new end zones a lot.”

It’s not just the football field experiencing an overhaul.

A nine-lane polyurethane track surface soon will form an oval around the football field, enabling Whiteland to put itself in the rotation to host track and field events such as the Mid-State Conference Meet.

Hosting such meets wasn’t possible before with the school’s seven-lane track.

A pole-vault pit allowing competitors to run either east-west or west-east (depending on wind direction) is going to be installed at the north end of the stadium. Four long-jump pits are being installed at the south end near the visitors bleachers.

Even the large rock with “Break The Rock” printed across it in blue lettering has a new home. It was located near the west end zone when Darrin Fisher arrived as head coach in 2005, but now it sits outside the refurbished blockhouse.

Fisher has made it clear to everyone involved in Whiteland football any changes with the field or location of the rock in no way dilutes the traditions of Warriors football.

It’s the same 120 yards (counting end zones) where Whiteland teams have played since the program was formed in the mid-1960s.

Physical education classes will make good use of the field, as will the marching band and any sports program in need of a consistent outdoor surface.

It’s here Fisher sees the greatest benefit for his football teams.

“I think it’s a consistent practice surface. It’s not too wet, it’s not too muddy. We’ve practiced at three locations on these school grounds. There have been days we’ve had to go inside because it’s too muddy and you can’t get anything done outside,” said Fisher, whose program is 41-16 at home in his 10 seasons. “For me that’s the exciting part.

“Every single day having the same footing, the same markings. A lot of people don’t understand how important it is from a football standpoint that those numbers and those hash marks and all those measurements are correct.”

Whiteland is the last of the seven Mid-State Conference high schools to install an artificial surface on its football field. This in some respects could be viewed as both an advantage and disadvantage during recent seasons.

A part of Fisher misses the natural surface, yet he understands it is better on the long run.

“Our grounds and maintenance folks did a phenomenal job making sure we had number markings and hash markings,” he said. “Our fields were laid out great here.”

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at