After nearly a year in the making, the $750,000 Clara Morrow Field soccer complex renovations have been completed at Somerset High School. The historic Clara Morrow Field has served as the home of the Briar Jumpers' soccer program since its inception nearly 30 years ago.
The Clara Morrow Field renovation is highlighted with a majestic bricked entrance - fitting of the local venue's historic significance to Somerset High School. An iron gate opens up to an enclosed archway for ticket sales, concessions, public restrooms and an air-conditioned pressbox overhead.
On the south end zone of Clara Morrow Field, boys and girls locker rooms have been constructed, giving the Briar Jumper kickers a grand entrance for each home game. A new purple/gold scoreboard has been placed at midfield, and new state-of-the-art LED lights will beam on legendary Clara Morrow Field in the late autumn evenings.
In 1907 a young girl named Clara Morrow tragically died at the age of 10 years old. Several years later in 1923, her family donated a small portion of their land - on College Street - to Somerset High School for the purpose of adding a football field. In appreciation of the Morrow family's generous land donation, the local school honored the memory of the young Clara Morrow by naming their new football facility after her.
Over the next 50 years, Clara Morrow was the sole football field for the Pulaski County area. The Somerset Midget League played their games on Clara Morrow Field on Thursday nights, and the Briar Jumpers played their high school gridiron games there on Friday nights.
"If you played football back in those days, you spent a lot of time on Clara Morrow Field," stated longtime Meece Middle School football coach Max Messamore. "From the time I started playing Midget League football to playing at the high school level, I spent almost everyday of my youth either practicing or playing on Clara Morrow Field."
As a football stadium, Clara Morrow Field featured a grand arch entrance that led into the home team bleachers located on both sides of the entrance. Waist-high metal rails encapsulated the playing field in an effort to keep fans off the Briar Jumpers' gridiron.
"I remember every game that all the fans stood along those rails cheering us on and, back then, everyone in the county came to Somerset football games," Messamore recalled. "Those rails were very close to the boundaries of the playing field, so the fans were right on top of you. It was great for the Briar Jumpers, but it had to be intimidating for the opposing teams."
But besides the great athletic moments experienced on Somerset's gridiron, some believed they actually saw the ghost of Clara Morrow playing on those same hallowed grounds after the midnight hour.
"Growing up as a kid in the Oaklawn subdivision, I can remember sneaking out of the house late at night with my friends and cousins to go to Clara Morrow Field," Messamore recalled.
But after the Somerset Briar Jumpers football program moved to their new William Clark Field in the early 1970's, the legendary Clara Morrow Field sat behind the high school's edifice lifeless and empty of varsity athletic competitions - up until the emergence of the sport of soccer came into existence in Kentucky in the mid 1980's. Just like football had done nearly a half of a century prior, the Briar Jumpers soccer program flourished with the help of Clara Morrow, and its special home field advantage.
Over the past several years, the 'Briar Jumpers Rowdies' cheering section emerged at the south end of Clara Morrow Field. Nearly the entire Somerset High School student body would congregate on the sidelines with everything from American Flags, giant rubber ducks, to portable swimming pools. And while the Rowdies section was somewhat of a Somerset student social gathering, they were primarily there to support their soccer team - which in turn - gave the soccer Briar Jumpers a huge home field advantage.
"The Rowdies and Clara Morrow Field is the most unique thing I have ever seen in high school soccer," stated Somerset High School boys soccer coach Brian Blankenship. "The field is unique that it is so close to the school and makes it easy for students to get here, and the Rowdies have become a great tradition to the school and the success of our soccer programs."
Blankenship, who has been around the Somerset High School soccer program for the past 12 years, has seen how the Somerset High School student body has taken to their soccer program and attendance at Clara Morrow Field.
"A lot times the soccer players would be the school's class leaders and a lot of their friends would come out to support them at games," Blankenship commented. "Then older students would invite the younger students to hang out with them in the Rowdies section."
"Before long the Rowdies became a tradition at Clara Morrow Field. There got to be theme nights and they had to decide who would hold the American flag, who would ring the cow bell, and things like that," Blankenship laughed. "The tradition of the Rowdies at Clara Morrow Field is something special and it gives our soccer teams a huge advantage in all our home games."
With the help of the Briar Jumper Rowdies and the local facility's modern renovations, the spirit of Clara Morrow will be as vibrant has it ever has.
Long live the memory of Clara Morrow.
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.