Decades of Tradition: Bobcat Field
By: Lisa Ferguson
Bobcat Field has long been the heartbeat of Celina.
The small-but-mighty stadium on East Pecan Street is where community members have for decades gathered to rally around and cheer on their orange-and-white-clad Boys of Fall as they took to its field, considered by many to be hallowed ground.
Over the years there, countless young men led by legendary coaches have forged the city’s reputation as a Texas high school football powerhouse that made history by winning a record 68 straight games and claiming eight state-championships titles.
However, Friday night lights will soon shine for the last time at Bobcat Field. A much-anticipated match up between Celina and archrival Argyle scheduled on Nov. 9 (which also happens to be Senior Night) is slated to be the final high school game that will be played at the storied site.
Celina ISD plans next Fall to open a new athletic complex on the campus of Celina High School, the centerpiece of which is a football stadium that will boast seating for at least 6,500 spectators, among other state-of-the-art amenities.
To mark the decades of tradition, OurCelina asked a dozen men who have been – and, in most cases, continue to be – involved with Celina High School’s football program to share their memories from and thoughts about the impact that Bobcat Field has had on them personally and professionally, as well as on the community.
Anthony Lynn, 1984-88, running back; current head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers:
“I just remember coming out on Friday nights, everybody in town was there, all of the alumni, they’re all standing on the fence. I can still smell the smoke from those pipes. You know, there’s nothing like that and just knowing that those guys were watching, and trying to make those guys proud and keep up the tradition. That was an unbelievable experience. … It’s more than a winning tradition, it’s the town’s identity, just a lot of blue-collar, hard-working people, and we tried to play that out on the football field. And the guys that were before us, I can’t say enough about the tradition that they established and the standards and expectations that we had to live up to. It was tough, and I wouldn’t want it any other way because I wouldn’t be the player that I was and wouldn’t be the coach that I am today. … People in that city, they demand the best, and the expectations and standards are high.”
“I know one Thursday night that stands out in my mind: Sixth grade, my first carry, I had these baggy football pants on and I’m running a tall sweep around the edge (of the field). A kid from I think it was Frisco grabbed me by the pants and my pants fell down to my ankles. I heard about that for a long time.”
Scott Tingle, 1972-75, quarterback, running back, punter, defensive back; current Quarterback Club member:
“Where the concession stand is now used to be our fieldhouse when I was a freshman. I was from Weston, so I was always ended up waiting for someone to come pick me and a couple of the other boys up and give us a ride home. In the spring of my freshman year, we were the waiting on a ride and we were the only ones (at the field), and new fieldhouse showed up, an Army barracks. The (truck) driver pulled in and said, `Where do you want it?’ We had no clue, so we said, `Heck let’s get over on the other side.’ We had a big old pecan tree over there. I said, `Let’s get under that pecan tree so we can sit under that tree.’ So, they pulled the rig over there, and he’d look at us and we’d say, `Move it a little more here.’ We ended up getting it set and they unloaded it that night and were gone, and that’s where that fieldhouse sat ‘til they built a new one in the early ‘80s. We never did say anything, but it was good. We could take our pads out of the fieldhouse and sit under that big tree and get dressed and have ice breaks under it.”
“G.A. (Moore) was my coach all the way through (high school), and in the ‘90s and early 2000s he was both of my boys’ coach … so between the three of us, we always had G.A. as our coach. When he came back to Celina in ’88, we rebuilt our field and I coordinated and did the construction on moving the home side over to where it is now. I hired a crew to build the bleachers and my guys built the press box. … After that, we remodeled our new fieldhouse and built nice lockers for the boys and carpeted areas of it and made a media room. We all pitched in. The Quarterback Club paid the bills and we did the work as a donation-type deal. When the boys had the undefeated streak, G.A. was still there and we had built an indoor workout facility. … I’ve been real involved in the facilities that are there.”
G.A. Moore, Athletic Dir./Head Coach 1972-76; 1988-2001:
“It’s a very special place to me. The thing I guess that I was so impressed (with) when I first went to Celina … this was about 1972, everything on that side of the highway, the taxpayers didn’t pay any money for it. Everything was donated – the bleachers, the little fieldhouse. … The men got together and they took care of it. We worked on the bleachers at night and we’d mow the field and spray the lines for the field and do any repairs that needed doing. Any painting that needed doing, anything like that was taken care of by the people in town that loved that football field. … I was very impressed with that because they took so much pride in that. … They’d do everything that needed to be done. … That was the community’s field.”
“There are a lot of things that took place on that field that I think impacted a lot of kids lives. A lot of adults, also. … I was very blessed to be a part of all that. … There’s just something about Celina that kind of becomes part of you. It’s very, very special. … I can remember coming home from ball games on the road when we had a big win and we’d pull in the gate and, all of a sudden, they’d just flip the lights on and the stands would be full of people just waiting to welcome us home from a football game.”
Mark Kissinger, 1988-91, offensive tackle; current Quarterback Club member and host of its weekly Facebook Live events; broadcast host on www.homeofthebobcats.com:
“I haven’t missed a Celina game in 13 years. … The one that I remember the most is, we were playing Farmersville here in Celina. That was a really big game because both of us were ranked in the top five in state. The game lived up to its billing. There were people probably 10 people deep all around the field. It was a huge crowd. … We came out on top 35 to 28, and we won on what’s called the guard-around play. Basically, the center drops the ball between his legs, one of our guards picked it up and took off down the side lines. That guard’s name was Josh Vest. … He took it and we ended up scoring, and that was the game-winning touchdown, so we beat Farmersville. I think they were ranked two and the time and we were ranked three, so it was a big game.”
“There is nothing that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck like coming through the victory line and running through the run-through sign. There’s nothing better. Still to this day, it gives me chills. … When I was out there I really couldn’t hear stuff that people were saying in the stands. I could hear noise. … There’s just really nothing that can replicate it. … (The field has) always kind of been a common thread in Celina. … Thinking about it now, I’m tearing up a bit because I’m thinking about so many memories that have been created on that field.”
Caleb Lavey, 2007-10, middle linebacker; current Celina Chamber of Commerce board member and community leader:
“Everyone always came out for the games. … It was exciting, it was something that you looked forward to all week. You’d been practicing pretty much year-round in Celina and you finally got a shot to show off to the community, your friends, the fans, the cheerleaders. It’s kind of where everything comes together, and it was always a great experience.”
“I remember the first time I ever played on that field was when I was playing pee wee football for Tim Looper. We were playing the Gunter Tigers in the Super Bowl. That was the first year they ever had turf, so previously when we’d go to the Super Bowl we didn’t get to play at the high school stadium because you’d tear up the grass before the high school played. But they had just gotten turf, and I remember feeling like I’d made it because I got to play in the stadium. That was a huge deal.”
Butch Ford, Defensive Coordinator, 1988-2011, Athletic Director/Head Coach, 2002-11:
“When I came, the visitors side is where the home side is now, and the home side was where the visitors side is now. And it was a grass field and there was only one structure over there, and that’s where the junior high boys dress now. So, a lot of things have changed.”
“Fifty years ago this year was my senior year in Pilot Point. We played Celina the first game, and it was a big game. We won six to nothing, and I scored the only touchdown in the game. Virgil Miller was coaching Celina at the time, and G.A. Moore was the coach in Pilot Point. So, I go way back. … A lot of great, great kids played on that field.”
Donald Hamm, public address announcer, early 1970s-1990:
“I think I was in the booth in one capacity or another for 34 years. During that time, maybe I missed two ball games or something like that. … There was an old, metal kind of cage. It was on one of the light poles. They’d come out with the new 8 millimeter cameras, so J.R. McIlroy bought one and the Quarterback Club asked me to film (a game). I was probably the youngest one in there, so I could climb up the pole. I went up and filmed that thing. It was probably the first game that was ever filmed up here, but it was so dark the film was no good, so we only did one. That was probably ‘62 or ‘63. The wind was blowing and this thing would kind of move around with you. It wasn’t very steady. I took some rope and tied myself to the pole in case something happened. We just did it one time but it wasn’t successful, so we abandoned that idea.”
“Also, back then … the press box leaked pretty bad when it rained. You would go in there and, sometimes if the floor was all wet, you’d turn on the microphone and it would shock you. You had to be just extremely careful about what you said when you turned the mic on. I don’t think any of us ever got into trouble, but it came real close a few times. It’s changed a lot. It’s improved considerably.”
Pat Hunn, defensive back, 1972-74; public address announcer, 1991-present:
“My senior year we played Prosper, and they had beat us the year before which kept us out of the playoffs in my junior year. So, my senior year, we obviously had a little revenge in mind when we played them in Celina. … If I’m not mistaken, the score was zero to zero at the end of the first quarter, and at halftime I believe the score was 56 to nothing. … I’m told that’s the most points ever scored in a single quarter. I don’t know if that that (record) still exists.”
“What was crazy was, several of us senior boys had kind of gotten in trouble with the coach that day. He didn’t even like us talking to our girlfriends, and we were doing that, and he caught us. Oh, he was mad. He was like, `We’re not focusing on the game, we’re more interested in the girls.’ … Coach Moore would scare you to death. At the end of the first quarter it was zero to zero and we’re going, `You know, he might have known what he was talking about, maybe he was right,’ and we sort of turned it on the second quarter and we just annihilated them at that point. I think the game ended up 66 to 6 or something like that. We didn’t do much in the second half because we were so far ahead.”
Ott Rucker, 1950-53, quarterback:
“The field used to run … directly north and south. So, where the fieldhouse and all that is now, that used to be part of the football field, but in 1953 they changed it to the way it runs now. They put some sod on it, not much, and me and a couple other guys got a water truck and we hauled water out of the city disposal plant and put it on that field to get the grass to grow. We didn’t have any way down there to water grass.”
“In 1953 we played six-man football. The year before, we played 11-man in ’52. We only had 12 people, and two of them got hurt so we had to play a guy in the eighth grade to make 11. He was my brother-in-law (Ray Pinion). He went on to play college football and pro football. … He was big for his age, even when he was in grade school.”
Rex Glendenning, 1970-74, middle linebacker, offensive tackle; current Real Estate Developer and active community leader:
“There have been so many cool games +and memories on that field. … My senior year back in 1974 was interesting in as much as we were able to cobble together a state championship that year, so that obviously made it kind of special. And the great coaches that have come through Celina. Obviously, I’m kind of partial to the G.A. Moore regime, who coached me.”
“(Bobcat Field) was kind of the fabric and glue that kept the community together for so many years. You’d work all week and you’d go to the football game on Friday night and you supported the team. It’s always been a special place.”
Bill Elliott, Offensive Line Coach, 1993-2002; 2002-12; Offensive Coordinator/Line Coach, 2002-12; Athletic Director/Head Coach, 2011-present:
“I grew up in Pilot Point, played for Coach Moore and Coach Ford, so I played games on this field also as a kid, so there’s a lot of memories here. Probably one of the games that stands out the most is the 2002 game Gainesville game. We had just moved up to 3A, we were in the win streak at that time. Everyone said … Gainesville was gonna beat us, they were a lot bigger school than us, we were the smallest school in 3A at that time. … It was a phenomenal game, just a lot of phenomenal plays made by a lot of kids. … Josh Sharrock, he’s on my coaching staff now, he was on that team as our running back and he made just unbelievable plays that night and we were able to win that game. It was a phenomenal game and probably one of my greatest memories ever on that field.”
“I maintained that field. When it was natural grass I was the groundskeeper, I guess you could call it. I mowed it and fertilized it and took care of it for so long. I saw this place change from when it was a rock parking lot all around it, no pavement. We had a powerline that ran across the north end that field goals would hit sometimes. … It’s such a great atmosphere to play a game. It’s one of the greatest stadiums to me just because of the closeness of the fans down onto the field. It brings just a great feel to the game. … There are just a lot of things I’m gonna miss. A lot of great things have happened there. A lot of people complain about the (lack of) parking … but to me, it was always like a college (game) feel because people parked all throughout the town and they walked into the stadium, much like they do onto a lot of the college campuses. … It just brought the closeness in, and you were just there all together in Bobcat Field.”
Steve Carey, 1971-74, defensive end and tight end; current Quarterback Club member:
“As a kid I used to go to the practices every day and watch the guys work out and could not wait until I got to put on the orange and white and play at Bobcat Field, and actually was able to do that. … My memories of Bobcat Field quite honestly have to do with the many nights that we had overflow crowds that were eight and 10 (people) deep, standing on the sidelines and standing on the end zones and people not being able to get in and out, not being able to get to the concession stand, those type of things.”
“When I think about Bobcat Field, I think about the community because that is where the people of Celina come together and support their youth really like no place else in America. … We’ve had a lot of championships, but I think about the years that maybe we weren’t quite as fortunate to win championships. Those guys worked just as hard as I did and just as many hours, so everything coming together has made Bobcat Field what it is today. Quite honestly, I fought for a long time to keep Bobcat Field. I thought it was our little Death Valley, if you will. … It’s time that we move on to the next field and the new facilities because the kids deserve it, but I hope we don’t ever lose the sense of pride that people had in playing at a place like Bobcat Field.”