It's the dawn of a new era as Delaware Military Academy is close to finishing a stadium in time for what promises to be a season of change for Delaware high school football.
DMA has already completed the lights, stands, and press box for Fusco Memorial Field. It's located on the back corner of 6 acres of property the school recently purchased after financial support from several donors, including Tony Fusco.
Commandant Anthony Pullella told WDEL after years of using Baynard Stadium and Kirkwood Soccer Club for their field sports, being able to host games on-campus will be a game-changer.
"The best part about it is that our cadets really can go cheer on their fellow cadets at games. A lot of our games have been at Kirkwood Soccer, which has been great, but it's just a hike. The kids have not been able to get out there and support their friends."
It will give DMA flexibility they didn't have in the past. Many of the teams, including football, were using the back fields of Richardson Park Elementary a few blocks up Middleboro Road.
The athletic field is the latest in a series of additions at the school, including the Anthony N. Fusco, Sr. Athletic Center, an indoor arena with classroom space that opened in 2017.
The lights will also give the school scheduling flexibility, as they've scheduled their 4 home games for Friday night at 7 p.m., after having to occasionally play on Saturdays or Thursdays at Baynard.
Baynard would not have been an option anyway for DMA this year, as construction crews began ripping down the metal bleachers on the home side of the stadium, after the temporary visitors' side was also taken away. That's the first step in a lengthy construction process that will see Baynard Stadium become Abessinio Stadium for the fall of 2020.
Renderings of the new stadium include a large grandstand with a press box and luxury suites, a large scoreboard, an expanded 8-lane track, and locker rooms that will more easily fit football teams.
It has forced the three remaining schools that use the stadium for football: Salesianum, Howard, and Saint Elizabeth to adjust.
Salesianum will split their 5 home games between A.I. duPont, Caravel, and Brandywine, the latter of which has also undergone a change for 2019.
Saint Elizabeth and Howard are currently scheduled to play their 10 combined home games at Caravel, with Howard only playing one Friday night game, with three Thursday night showcases.
Brandywine's year-long battle to get lights for their stadium finally ended as they were able to play some lacrosse and soccer games in the spring, and they're booked to host their first 5 home games under permanent lights this season, in addition to the 2 Salesianum overflow contests. Their field remains natural grass, and also hosts soccer games, so wear-and-tear will remain a factor that DMA won't have to deal with.
Two other major changes are coming to the Christina School District.
One of Glasgow's lightstands took damage from a winter Nor'Easter, and the school elected to remove the lighting from the field as opposed to paying for replacements. That means the Dragons will now play their 5 home games on Saturdays at noon.
They'll be joined by their two conference foes, Christiana, who hasn't had lights, and Newark, who went through a similar issue with a light pole leaning over their baseball field 2 years ago. Despite getting a donation to have temporary lights get them through the 2018 season, the Yellowjackets are set to play their football schedule on Saturdays in 2019.
Four of the games are at 10:30, while the Homecoming game against Dickinson is set for noon.
The three Red Clay schools, A.I. duPont, McKean, and Dickinson, all still have working lights, but most of their games have moved up an hour to 6 p.m. with the exceptions of A.I. and Dickinson's Homecoming Games and Dickinson's Senior Game.
After DMA and Salesianum complete their projects, that will mean that only Brandywine, McKean, Dickinson, A.I. duPont, Saint Mark's, Tower Hill, Caravel, Salesianum, DMA, and Red Lion will be able to play home night games above the Canal.
The Friday Night Lights Era seems to be waning in some parts of northern Delaware.
NEW SEAHAWK IN CHARGE: WDEL has also learned that assistant Brian McArdle has been hired to replace former Athletic Director Michael Ryan as DMA's Football Coach. No reason was given for why DMA made the change, although it is believed that many of Ryan's assistants will be given the choice to remain. DMA currently lists 14 assistant coaches on their football page, including McArdle.