The Helias High School community celebrated the dedication and grand opening of its Crusader Athletic Complex for the first home football game of the Crusaders' season, against the Hannibal Pirates.
Until Friday night, Helias' football team hosted home competitions at Jefferson City Public Schools' Adkins Stadium.
Two of the four captains of Helias' football team spoke about what the new facilities mean for them. Senior wide receiver and defensive back John Paden said "it means a lot for the senior class" to have the new stadium.
Fellow senior captain, wide receiver and defensive lineman Nathan Bax said he was "playing for the past." Bax and Paden's fathers played for Helias before them.
"This is the icing on the cake," Bax said of having the new complex for his last year of high school, with the grand opening being a dual celebration on the day of his 18th birthday.
Halle Vanderfeltz said she was "speechless" about the Crusaders' new home; Vanderfeltz is a senior and head manager of the football team.
Beth Oetting was standing on the field next to Vanderfeltz with a camera in hand as a "photo mom." The 1991 Helias alumna and mother of lineman Clayton Oetting said having a home field was "a long time coming."
"I still feel like somebody's going to say 'gotcha,' and we'll be back over there," coach and special teams coordinator Jordan Tobar said. Tobar, a 2007 Helias alumnus pointed up and across Myrtle Avenue toward the field where he practiced for four years as a Helias player and then for another nine years so far as a coach.
It's not just Helias football that has a new field to call their own, though.
"It's a really amazing experience that we finally have a place that's ours," senior Elijah Korenberg said of De La Salle Soccer Field, which is close to being finished. Korenberg is a goal keeper for the Helias soccer team.
The team previously practiced and played on a field off of Missouri 179.
Midfielder soccer teammate Christian Cepeda also does triple jump for track, and he said he's happy to not have to practice anymore on the previous track, which was asphalt and heavily degraded, preventing the school from hosting competitions.
Cepeda and Korenberg were organizing "Ray's Rowdies" T-shirts before the football game to be handed out to the student section.
The Ray Hentges Football Stadium in Crusader Athletic Complex is named after a former head football coach and teacher. Hentges was Helias' head football coach for 33 years and was the coach for two state championships.
He and his wife, Marilyn, stood alongside dozens of family members on the field for the blessing of the stadium. One of Ray's grandsons, Hale Hentges, had a pre-recorded video message played on the field's video board as part of the tribute. Hale plays for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide as a tight end.
Helias President Rev. Stephen Jones gave Ray and Marilyn a commemorative plaque and T-shirts. At the earlier ribbon cutting ceremony, Jones cited Ray's legacy as a role model and mentor "throughout his ministry as a Catholic educator."
At halftime, Ray went onto the field with former assistant coaches and players. He offered many thank-yous, including to God for the blessings he said he's received.
Faith was a cornerstone of the dedication ceremonies. The blessing on the field featured scripture readings and a moment of silence for Troy and Lisa Feltrop, who died recently in a carbon monoxide accident. Their son Kyle is a senior captain on the football team and an offensive and defensive lineman.
"We entreat your kindness that this place and its facilities will contribute to leisure activities that renew the spirit and strengthen the mind and body," Jones said in the blessing. "Grant that all who meet here may find the enrichment of companionship and offer you the praise that is your due."
Jones repeated a quote before the ribbon cutting he said he's cited often during the construction process, the first verse of Psalm 127: "'Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.'"
Hentges, while on the field at halftime, thanked all the donors who made the moment possible. "Every one of you people who pledged any amount of financial (contribution) own part of this field," he said.
Jones said he felt relieved once the ribbon had been cut with the knowledge the game was going to happen. He said he was most looking forward to kick-off, the moment "when this dream becomes a reality."