Coaches and players describe the experience as "weird" and "strange" but say they had fun.
By SCOTT PURKS
Published August 29, 2004
ST. PETERSBURG - The ball was high and spiraling. Then ... it was gone.
The next second, it was on top of Armwood punt returner R.J. Anderson, who reached for the ball before it deflected off his fingers between second and third base.
Anderson slipped then smothered it to retain possession near the 20-yard line.
Try football on a baseball field.
It was the first time, in fact, high school football in Florida was played indoors; hence Anderson losing the ball in Tropicana Field's lights, white backdrop, speakers and catwalks.
"It was a bit strange," Anderson said. "But it was fun."
Strange and fun were two of many words used to describe the experience.
Chamberlain coach Billy Turner said at times it was "distracting." Armwood coach Sean Callahan said it was "weird."
But both said it was a great day for high school football and they would like to come back because it was good for the kids, even though Turner added, "I personally prefer the outdoors."
Steve Berrey, the event coordinator, said there will "hopefully" be another day of football at the Trop next year, most likely during the regular season.
"It was a dream of mine and (promoter Randy Younker) to make this thing happen, and we'd like to come back next year with a bigger and better event," Berrey said. "I think it will work next year because now we've done it and we've shown that it can be exciting."
Berrey, vice president of iHigh, a national high school media and marketing company, said it cost $24,000 to rent the Trop and his total budget was $50,000.
With tickets running at $6, Berrey hoped for a crowd of 7,500 for the three preseason games: Dunedin vs. St. Petersburg, Armwood vs. Chamberlain and Hillsborough vs. Manatee.
The paid attendance was 3,680.
"I think that had to do with not getting a title sponsor and possibly the fact that these were preseason games," Berrey said. "We could change those things rather easily."
Players and coaches said the only trouble, and it wasn't much, was the infield dirt was slippery and full of pebbles that scratched some players.
"The turf overall, though, was great," Callahan said. "I came over a couple of weeks ago to check out the turf because I was concerned about it. If I didn't like it or thought it wasn't safe to play on in our cleats (Armwood has only one set of cleats), I would have pulled out of the thing.
"I guess they would have called me a big baby, but I wouldn't have risked getting someone hurt to play on it if I didn't think it was safe."