Leaving their marks

Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Lennis Periman, left, and Kent Stephenson paint the hash marks on the field at Wildcat Stadium. Jared Lankford/sports@cassville-democrat.com

Cassville grounds crew the real MVPs

Every team has players that never see the limelight.

Their names are never read over the public address system, they seldom score a touchdown and people generally only notice them if they make a mistake. 
However, without their efforts and hard work, victory would be impossible.

Bill Spinks begins a nearly two-mile walk to spray paint the lines at Wildcat Stadium on Thursday. Jared Lankford/sports@cassville-democrat.com

Everyone in Cassville is familiar with the football Wildcats, yet there is another group of players in the small Barry County city, a team that has never played a down for Coach Lance Parnell, yet is vital to any and all success that is achieved on Friday nights -- the Cassville High School grounds crew.

The team is comprised of five men: Jack Barber, Lennis Periman, Kent Stephenson, Bill Spinks and Rick Morgan.

There is nothing about Wildcat Stadium the quintet has not been responsible for creating, maintaining or growing. Everything from the grass being mowed exactly to one-inch in height every three days, to the construction of the new press box and bleachers in order to save the district and taxpayers money, to maintaining the water lines and electric boxes, is on their shoulders.

"We're too old to do anything else," Periman said. "Besides, we like what we do too much."

Periman has been with the district since 1988. He even recalls the old way of marking the field.

"Up until 1990 or so, we used chalk to line the field," Periman said. "It took 300 pounds of the chalk, which came in 50-pound bags to complete the job back then."

Times have changed and the district now uses spray paint cans and marking paint.

According to Periman, it takes 15 gallons of marking paint and 12 cans of spray to paint the field prior to a home contest.

The crew arrives at 10 a.m. each Thursday prior to a home game to begin the four-hour ritual.

Barber, Periman, Stephenson and Morgan begin with the hash marks, then lay out the stencils for the yard markers.

Spinks begins a nearly two-mile walk, making two passes around the field to mark the sidelines. He the draws the team boxes before he turns his attention to spraying 3,200 feet of yard lines.

"We have it down to a pretty good art," Periman said. "It usually takes us four hours from start to finish. The hardest spray job is the one before the first game of the season. We have to run string everywhere to mark our lines and it takes up a full day to prep the field."

Just like the old U.S. Mail motto -- rain or shine, the mail must go through -- the men have to mark the field regardless of Mother Nature's temperament.

Periman recalled several times that painting had to temporarily be halted because the temperatures were so cold that nozzles on the spray cans would freeze.
"We'd just took the cans inside for a bit and once they warmed up went back to painting," Periman said. "We've also been out here in 100-degree heat and in rain trying to get this job done. It's just part of it."

The final touch to the field is the "Wildcats" written at the 50-yard line.

The crew technically does not have to put the black with gold trim moniker, but they all agree that the field does not look right without its mascot's name.

When asked about the possibility of Cassville one day going to an artificial playing surface that would be permanently marked, the team has already talked the subject to death.

"We're against it," Stephenson said. "People don't understand that there is still a lot of upkeep with those fake fields. Besides, it would knock us out of a good job."

Hundreds of fans flock to each Cassville home game, and whether or not they realize it, they are dependent upon a five-man crew. While their hard work might be lost on some, the grounds crew take pride in it.
When asked if there were any secrets to painting the field and making it look good, the team all said one thing -- wait until the paint dries before you walk on it.

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