Red jerseys dotted the landscape at this past week as Cheshire Junior Football began practice sessions for its teams, grades 4-8, each evening from about 6-8 p.m.
The league, which usually plays its regular season games at the Cheshire High School main field, had to find a new home this upcoming season, just as the high school team still does, until at least mid-October, the projected earliest finish for the high school's turf field construction. But it's a minor bump, said Cheshire Junior Football President Robert Oris, and well worth the small inconvenience.
The plan for the juniors, said Oris, is to run most games at the Cheshire high football practice field adjacent to the main field, a location they have used in the past on occasion.
"If we have any issues there, we'll move to Bartlem and have to put up some temporary goalposts, but after meeting with the contractors for the turf, we will be fine in using the practice field," said Oris, who is also a member of the Field Turf Sub-Committee.
When school starts, the junior teams will move to on Wednesday and Thursday evenings for practice. The regular season begins on Aug. 28.
"The kids love to play on the main game field, so to the extent that we're going to be delayed using it, they're a little disappointed in that, but they're really excited about getting the turf field," Oris said. "Clearly, the new field outweighs any short-term inconvenience.
"It's really not an issue for us. The turf will allow us to use it in any kind of weather conditions," Oris continued. "We're all looking at the bigger picture. We're generally delayed in getting to use the game field anyways because the high school doesn't allow us to use it until their first home game. They don't want us roughing up the field before they get to use it."
The juniors have previously used the practice field for a lot of its games, Oris said, and sometimes have used both the practice and main fields on game day Sundays from 9 a.m. to the last game starting at 5 p.m.
This season, the Juniors have one team each for grades 4, 5, 7 and 8 and two teams for grade 6. About 200 players participate. Cheerleading also falls under the organization's purview, pushing that number close to 300.
Oris said the group has considered purchasing permanent goalposts because the high school's main field is the only facility in town with goalposts and it's used for a multitude of activities, not just football.
Lacrosse teams play on it, the marching band practices on it, and the track, which is also going under renovation in conjunction with the turf installation, is home to not only the track teams but various events such as Relay For Life. More than 100 events a year are run on the field, Oris said.
"We think the town should be trying to accommodate us and other football programs that give us another option other than the high school," Oris said. "We've been talking about putting up goalposts at an alternative field for a couple of years, just because we think it's appropriate for us to have another option."
Getting goalposts at another field in town is the group's long-term goal. Oris said the cost of permanent goalposts would be in the range of about $3,000 for a quality pair. Temporary goalposts would be about $1,000, he said.
Oris said the benefits of the new field will be obvious once it's completed.
"This was a big milestone to get this done," said Oris of the turf project. "I'm really looking forward to the community being able to see the final product and using it. Once people see it and use it and realize how much of a community field this is I think people will say 'Wow, we probably should have done this five years ago.' "