Soon the Howard School football players will link arms and feel adrenaline coursing through their bodies as they open their brand-new 2,000-seat stadium on Aug. 23 against Stratford.
There will be no extra words needed for coach John Starr to fire up the Hustlin' Tigers, who have been talking all offseason about who will be the first to accomplish many outstanding feats on their new stomping grounds.
"When these players run out and see this place and the band is playing, it is going to be so exciting," Starr said. "Our kids and community deserve a place like this. When you think of Howard, you think of old. But when you walk out here, it looks like a miracle to have something this nice on Market Street. It's an easy sell."
General contractor P&C Construction, Inc., began work on the stadium project on Jan. 15 and is close to its finishing touches.
For all Friday night showdowns at the yet-to-be-named stadium the theme will be simple: "Defend this house."
Carrying over the tradition of being tough to beat at home is an important goal for the Hustlin' Tigers, who won four home games in both 2016 and 2018 at their historic Red Gaston Stadium.
Memories such as beating Red Bank in Starr's first home game is one that will last a lifetime and still fuels the fire.
"At the end of the day I still love that old place," Starr said. "That stadium represented Howard. It's hard to say goodbye to it. However, this place will make us realize every time we are out here we've got it pretty good. In my opinion it's the best facility in Hamilton County and a part of the big turnaround here."
Around the new Reggie White Field is a top-tier track that can accommodate all field events as well. The football stadium also will be able to host soccer games.
To the right side of the home bleachers, which seat up to 1,500, will be a fieldhouse with a training facility, meeting rooms, showers and a concession stand.
The football Hustlin' Tigers hope to continue momentum after winning four of their last five games last season and giving Elizabethton a run for its money in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Howard also will host defending region champions Tyner (Sept. 13) and Anderson County (Sept. 20), along with Central (Sept. 20) and East Hamilton (Nov. 1).
"This is it now. This is our home and we have to defend it," Starr said. "We are not going to let anybody come in here and take over our place. When we win some big games here, it's going to be a great celebration. Our five toughest games on our schedule are at this spot. We have to protect our turf."
While leaving behind a stadium that opened in the 1950s and one filled with tradition, the players see playing in a breathtaking new home that is well above flood stage (plus-650 feet) as a special opportunity.
"The kids have been talking all offseason about the first game here," Starr said. "Who is going to be that guy? There is a lot of history to be made here. Our guys are motivated and building from that."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at email@example.com.