Hometown Report: For ARC's Haflich, the grass is always greener

Published: Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012 - 11:03 am

Jerry Haflich is an anomaly, loyal to tradition.

The American River College football coach disdains FieldTurf and favors the look, smell and feel of real grass. Haflich wants his players to wash their jerseys after a game, not their eyes of rubberized pellets that pop up from synthetic surfaces.

So imagine Haflich's mixed emotions Friday morning when he admired the natural football surface that glistens in the sun like a green oasis. He also was bracing for the Mountain Lions' open tryout camp Sunday with hundreds of cleats bearing down on a surface he treasures to the point that he won't even let his own charges use it until Sept. 1.

That's when the Beavers, riding an 18-game winning streak, embark on a state and national championship quest.

Then the Mountain Lions' tryout at ARC was canceled, and Haflich nearly bear-hugged Todd Zurfluh, ARC's head groundskeeper. Haflich understands that as a community college, ARC offers its facilities to the region, as long as it doesn't interfere with its product and schedule.

The vagabond Mountain Lions sought any playing surface to embrace. They played on Sacramento State's FieldTurf the past two years while practicing on Sacramento City College's worn-out grass field last season. This year, the United Football League team will play its games at Raley Field.

As for the tryout, it will be held Sunday at Del Oro High School. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. For more information, go to the team's website, www.sacmountainlions.com.

The ARC master plan is to install FieldTurf to match that of Sac City and Sierra College (even Cosumnes River College, which doesn't play football, has FieldTurf for soccer and high school teams). Haflich doesn't mind if that master plan is stalled.

"As long as I'm the coach here, I'd rather have grass," Haflich said. "I just love playing on the real grass, and here, it's absolutely pristine."

FieldTurf costs at least $1 million to install, but the gains are many. There are no maintenance costs, and games can be played in swamp-like conditions without so much as a mud splatter. And there's the heat factor.

"If it's 100 degrees, it's hot, but if you compare 100 degrees on my grass field compared to (FieldTurf), our feet aren't going to be 117 degrees and melting," Haflich said. "I know most don't (like) grass more, and we're the last ones in Sacramento, but that's OK."

Wade memorial scheduled

Woody Watkins Wade, who officiated regional high school football and basketball games for the past 30 years, died last month of heart failure. Area coaches said they appreciated Wade for communication and professionalism during games. A celebration of his life will be held at 4 p.m. Aug. 26 at Jesuit High School. A fund has been created in his name to help pay for officials attending clinics.

For more information, call (916) 952-1882 or (916) 804-8706.

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Read more articles by Joe Davidson



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