Over the history of Scioto County, there are many facilities that serve as heartbeats for the county.
However, there may not be a single one that’s nearer to people’s hearts or has the overall tradition that Spartan Stadium has had.
Dutch Clark. Chase Ealey. Jojo Parker. Glenn Presnell. Jim Thorpe. Ed Miller. Bob Lutz. That’s just the short list of the greats who have played and coached in Spartan Stadium.
When you add those legendary figures to the kinds of teams that have been seen in the world-renown facility, such as the 1967 and 1970 Notre Dame Titans, along with the 2000 Portsmouth Trojans — and not to mention the NFL’s Portsmouth Spartans and Green Bay Packers — it’s easy to see where the passion for the beloved stadium comes from.
Take Gerald Cadougan, for example. The star offensive lineman — along with Ealey — were the only pair of Portsmouth natives to have their banners hung inside the entrance of Spartan Stadium, along with Clark, Presnell, and Thorpe, during the unveiling of the Spartan Stadium renovation plans on Saturday afternoon thanks to the work of Tom Kayser and Sean Dunne.
For the 2004 Portsmouth graduate and former Penn State Nittany Lion, it’s an honor that he doesn’t take lightly.
“It’s awesome,” Cadougan said. “Spartan Stadium is where it all began for me, with (Curt) Clifford, the levy, and those long two-a-days. This is where it all started, and it’s great to see that the community is taking the initiative as far as bringing this place back to life is concerned. It’s very exciting.”
What makes Spartan Stadium so special to Cadougan, you ask? The atmosphere — which is the same thing that makes it special for so many Portsmouth and Scioto County natives that have watched, or have even played a game in, the storied facility.
Between all of the greats that came out of Portsmouth High School — such as Cadougan, Parker, Aaron Duncan, and Michael Estep, among many others — and the fierce rivalries that came about with Ironton, West, and Wheelersburg, with all four schools at their peak from the late 80s to the early 2000s from a football standpoint — it wasn’t a shock to see a standing room only crowd, with people packed all across the levy, to watch the excellent football talent that combined to create the once-in-a-lifetime memories that individuals still talk about today.
But it hasn’t just been special for Portsmouth, either. Notre Dame, who collected undefeated regular season campaigns in 1995 and 2000 in addition to its AP state title-winning efforts in ‘67 and ‘70, has continued to play at the stadium. In fact, Spartan Stadium has served as the home for the Titans’ football program throughout the duration of its existence.
“Playing at Spartan Stadium, there’s no other way to describe it other than magical,” Cadougan said. “When Portsmouth played Ironton at Spartan Stadium, there’s nothing that compares to that. To see all of the stands full, and people standing and sitting all across the levy to watch the game, it’s indescribable. So it’s great to see that this place is coming back to life.”
That’s a big statement for an individual who played in front of hundreds of thousands in Happy Valley during his time at Penn State.
However, even though Cadougan was a part of many of those special contests, and arguably deserves to be in the same class as Clark, Ealey, Presnell, and Thorpe, the honor was something that even took Cadougan aback.
“I feel blessed and humbled to even be considered in the same sentence as some of the names that (have banners up here in their honor),” Cadougan said. “God has just blessed me with gifts and talents, and I’m just excited that I was able to use those and have success. I want to empower the next generation, and that’s what I’m trying to do at Portsmouth High School right now — empower the next generation so that the students and athletes there can achieve even greater things.”
And while Cadougan will continue to work in order to do just that, he’s happy that a big part of his past will continue to play a major role in the futures of so many around the county.
“There’s so much history here,” Cadougan said. “Spartan Stadium is a rich facility. I’m just glad that it’s getting the facelifts and the updates needed where we can continue to have stories so that the future generations of our community can tell stories to their kids about how they played on this field, as well.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7