A gathering of about 15 or so eagles was spotted taking in an Eastwood football game from just outside a woods north of Freedom Field on a chilly, rainy Friday night this past October.
Okay…so maybe they weren’t of the feathered, winged, taloned species, but these Eagles have definitely come home to nest for plenty of Friday night fun at the “Eagles Fan Stand,” located a Jake Schmeltz spiral from Freedom Field on Eastwood booster Dwight Fertig’s land.
“The ‘Eagles Fan Stand’ was a sophomoric idea that Dwight and I cooked up during the fall of 2012,” shares 42-year-old Scott Coffman, a native of New Lexington, Ohio, who since relocating here has become a die-hard Eagles sports fan.
Coffman has gone on to serve his new home as: a youth basketball coach for the Eastwood school district for eight years; the president and co-founder of the Eastwood Youth Basketball Committee; and the co-founder of the NWO Eagles Summer Basketball Program.
Coffman is also the co-builder of the ‘Eagles Fan Stand,’ along with Fertig, his sons Jason (an Eastwood junior) and Erik (seventh grader), and Coffman’s sons Nick (sophomore), Cory (eighth), and Luke (sixth).
“We’re like non-blood related family with the Fertigs,” he says, “and between Dwight and (his wife) Patty, and Kim and I, we have five boys who laugh, fight, and hang out like brothers, and when there’s time, end up at each other’s houses, where we always end up cooking, or working on some home improvement, or hobby-related project.”
“Neither of us can really remember all of the details for the idea of the ‘Fan Stand’,” continues Coffman, “but we were watching a freshmen football game, while standing on the south side of the field one day, and looking towards the current location of the ‘Eagles Fan Stand,’ when it went something like this: ‘Man, I love the fall, and home Eastwood football games!’ ‘Yeah, the leaves are going to be turning, the nights are going to be getting cooler!’ ‘Hey, we should make it a tradition of cooking out over a bonfire, and hanging out before home games!’ ‘Hey, that sounds great! Your place or mine?’ And that’s when we thought, ‘What if we were to just do it right there in the woods instead?’
“So, after the game, we walked on over to the spot, and the plan was born,” he adds. “We cleared the property line, we stacked up loose field stones into a little rock wall, and the view of the football field was just great! We found it was even better when you stood on top of the wall!”
Like the building of that rock wall around a year ago, the more the Coffmans, the Fertigs, and their ever-growing “brood” of fellow Eagles fans continue to hang out, the more the great ideas to improve their quaint home-away-from-home continue to stack up.
For instance, in an effort to even better the view from the hill on Friday nights, a kind of “party deck” was built at precisely 12 feet tall, 8 feet deep, and 16 feet wide, offering a much-safer perch to catch all the action.
In addition, a safety rail was installed on three sides, and later a frame to help support a tent cover, with the idea to help shelter Eagles fans from the fickle Northwest Ohio fall elements — a decision which turned out to be a brilliant one seeing that it rained for all but one Eastwood home game in 2012.
As for this 7-2 (5-1 in Northern Buckeye Conference play heading into last Friday’s game), the ‘13 Eagles season, the Coffmans and Fertigs have gone on to further enhance the “Fan Stand” by replacing the original crude frame with a new, improved sloped frame, which allows them to spread a large, rain-proof tarp over the top of the structure when needed.
They’ve put down a 20 by15 foot gravel-covered weed barrier, which translates into no more clomping around in the mud, and tracking it up into the structure, and soiling all of those red, white, and Columbia blue spirit duds on Friday nights. An 8 by 4 foot middle level has been constructed and a good deal of the wood used to build the “Fan Stand” has been donated to “the Brood” by supportive friends in the way of unused treated lumber and scraps.
The “Eagles Fan Stand” is also equipped with lights, via a portable generator provided by Fertig. It comfortably seats 12 on its upper level, with seating for an additional four guests in its middle. An 8 by 3 foot sign is visible all the way from the south end zone, which proclaims “Go Eagles” in proud Eastwood red, and which was designed by Scott and Kim Coffman, is draped over the “Fan Stand’s” railing on Friday nights, as are typically a huge No. 65 (which is 6-foot-1, 184 pound junior offensive lineman/defensive end, and co-architect of the “Fan Stand,” Jason Fertig’s number), and various other signs and banners from time-to-time.
The focal point before kickoff? A 4 by 3 foot grilling surface, of course, which hangs in the belly of the “Fan Stand” over the top of the bonfire, which “the Brood” and guests use to fire up burgers, brats, dogs, and a smorgasbord of other enticing tailgate fare…which can be smelled from miles around, and makes the “Eagles Fan Stand” the best-smelling tailgate in all the NBC!
Like all good tailgates, the true fun goes down in the lead-up to the big game, and it’s no different with “the Brood’s” unique “Fan Stand” experience.
For example, on Thursday nights before home games, both the Coffmans and the Fertigs make it a ritual (and a science) of packing up all of their goodies, games, and other assorted gear into their trucks with everything having a particular pecking order. Hey, these guys are tailgating pros.
Then, on game day, both men rush home from work (Coffman from his gig at Marathon Petroleum) to set up, always keeping a watchful eye on weather and wind conditions (the latter for bonfire purposes), and the festivities are on…cornhole games, ATV rides, walks through woods, hot apple cider, fire-grilled bacon, popcorn delivery using a system of text messages and student runners.
“There’s plenty of room for friends to bring their own grillables, too,” hints Coffman, “and once the food is all cooked, we load up the fire to keep warm. We have nice, comfortable chairs, a good view, and it’s always nice to be able to talk and catch up with family and friends while watching the game.
“We always have post-game visitors, who have plenty of room to gather around the fire,” he adds, “and with our kids in basketball, golf, and of course football at the high school level, we have friends and acquaintances from most of the NBC schools, who come to visit us before games. And during games, especially if it’s raining, we often receive texts from Eagles and non-Eagles alike asking, ‘Hey, you got any extra seats up there?’
“One-hundred percent of the responses to the ‘Eagles Fan Stand’ have been positive and fun,” says Coffman.
But what about the “the Elder Statesman of NBC Football” himself, Coach Jerry Rutherford? Has Coach put his stamp-of-approval on the “Eagles Fan Stand,” as well?
“If you know Coach Rutherford, you know how many hours he spends taking care of his beloved field,” counters Coffman. “So, one afternoon during construction of the ‘Fan Stand,’ he stopped his mower to take a gander up here. Right then and there, we knew. If the ‘Eagles Fan Stand’ could drift Coach Rutherford’s attention away from grooming his field, he must like it.
“The ‘Eagle Fan Stand’ is just a good spot to watch Eastwood football games, cross-country meets, and track meets from,” he adds. “It’s a place we meet to spend time together with the kids. Sometimes it’s an escape from everyday life. It’s a place to catch up with old friends, and a place to meet new friends, as any and all are welcome to stop over.”
“Now. . .if we could just figure out how to get it into basketball games,” he quips.
(Story courtesy of Underdogs Radio)