Miller column: The grass is greener for Langston

Miller column: The grass is greener for Langston

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Miller column: The grass is greener for Langston

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Florida High’s fields are manicured by veteran landscaper Mark Langston, who treats the several fields of Tifway 419 Bermuda grass.

Florida High’s fields are manicured by veteran landscaper Mark Langston, who treats the several fields of Tifway 419 Bermuda grass.

Florida High quarterback Isaiah Hill makes a throw on the Seminoles’ practice field, which is part of the work veteran landscaper Mark Langston conditions.

Florida High quarterback Isaiah Hill makes a throw on the Seminoles’ practice field, which is part of the work veteran landscaper Mark Langston conditions.

A football field’s turf is sometimes the most overlooked aspect surrounding a game.

You focus on the crowd, the players, the cheerleaders, the game’s highlight moments.

Underneath it all, in many ways literally, is the ground walked upon.

For the last 14 years, Mark Langston has been working on Florida High’s fields, turning them into finely managed layers of Tifway 419 Bermuda grass. The first effect is preventing injuries that could arise from foot placement on a poor surface.

“He really puts his heart into what he’s doing,” said Florida High athletic director Maurice Adams, echoing the thoughts of Seminoles football coach Jarrod Hickman.

Langston, who worked on Florida A&M’s Bragg Memorial Stadium field before it was re-sodded several years ago, was also called upon to transform East Gadsden’s worn down and hole-filled field, through grading, watering, fertilizing and proper mowing.

Florida High’s field is lush and green thanks to the work of veteran landscaper Mark Langston, who takes good care of the Tifway 419 Bermuda grass.

Florida High’s field is lush and green thanks to the work of veteran landscaper Mark Langston, who takes good care of the Tifway 419 Bermuda grass.

Langston first started mowing lawns over 20 years ago, the first evolution of Mark’s Landscaping. When he got into field turf management, he picked the brain of deceased grass guru Robert Barrett, who manicured Doak Campbell Stadium’s grass during the Bobby Bowden era as FSU’s maintenance supervisor.

“He taught me so much,” said Langston, expounding on the intricacies of understanding the different types of grasses. Tifway 419 Bermuda requires more water and sunlight than other varieties. Mowing patterns should also change regularly to teach blades of grass to not grow a certain direction.

Langston’s biggest task of late has been a six-week project to get Wakulla’s field ready for Saturday’s 1 p.m. game against Spartanburg (S.C.) on ESPN, which has resulted in War Eagles’ athletic director Mike Smith making several required preparations in addition to the field, such as upgrading the press box.

“They have Tif Bermuda, but they hadn’t been mowing it with the proper mower,” Langston said. “I also aerated the field, which allows the water and fertilizer to get deeper in the soil and strengthen the roots. That helps build a better cushion and fuller field.”

Wakulla’s field will become one of Langston’s signature moments— he’s never worked on a golf course, the pinnacle of agronomy— and friends have been asking whether he’ll go take in his efforts in person on Saturday.

“What’s cool about it is being able to see all lines like you normally would for a TV game,” Langston said. “There’s a sense of pride in, but I’m not sure if I’ll go and watch it or just stay home and watch it on ESPN.”

Wakulla senior Keith Gavin warms up on the War Eagles’ field during his junior year. The Tifway 419 Bermuda variation of grass is looking better now thanks to veteran landscaper Mark Langston.

Wakulla senior Keith Gavin warms up on the War Eagles’ field during his junior year. The Tifway 419 Bermuda variation of grass is looking better now thanks to veteran landscaper Mark Langston.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

Suwannee vs. Leon at Gene Cox Stadium, 7 p.m.

•Live Oak Suwannee plays Leon at Gene Cox Stadium tonight, but the first game played between the Bulldogs and Lions took place in 1936 when Amos P. Godby was coaching Leon. The Lions won 26-0, but the Bulldogs returned the favor in 1939 with a 25-0 blanking.

•Gene Cox, who spent 27 years coaching the Lions (1963-1990), came to Leon via Suwannee, which was his second job following two years at Jefferson County.

•Leon is celebrating its 100th year of football this season and the program enters the season with 594 wins. On Friday, Oct. 2, Leon football is hosting a reunion celebration at the Cascades Park amphitheater, starting at 6 p.m. The event is free to the public.

100 Years of Leon High football: A lasting legacy
100 Years of Leon High football: Fun facts
100 Years of Leon High football: 1980 comeback vs. Lincoln
100 Years of Leon High football: Timeline

The Leon Lions open their season tonight at Cox Stadium against Live Oak Suwannee.

The Leon Lions open their season tonight at Cox Stadium against Live Oak Suwannee.

Home games

•East Gadsden at Chiles; St. Francis at John Paul II; Branford at Aucilla Christian; West Gadsden at Jefferson County; Eagle’s View at Franklin County; South Walton at Liberty County

Hitting the road

•Blountstown at Walton; Florida High at Panama City Arnold; FAMU DRS at Vernon; Lincoln at Niceville; Maclay at Thomasville Brookwood; Munroe at St. Joseph Academy; NFC at Albany Deerfield-Windsor; Taylor County at Dixie County

Blountstown Middle School quarterback makes ESPN Top 10 Plays of the Night

Saturday spotlight

•Wakulla will be on ESPNU at 1 p.m. for a game with South Carolina power Spartanburg High, which has one of the top running backs in the county in Clemson commit Tavien Feaster.

•Speaking of the War Eagles, receiver/safety Keith Gavin decommitted from Florida State on Wednesday, leaving open major recruitment of the four-star prospect during his senior season.

Wakulla receiver Keith Gavin fields a punt in pre-game warmups during a game last season. The War Eagles start their season Saturday on ESPN against Spartanburg (S.C.).

Wakulla receiver Keith Gavin fields a punt in pre-game warmups during a game last season. The War Eagles start their season Saturday on ESPN against Spartanburg (S.C.).

Saturday: Part II

•With a game against Tucker (Ga.) in Atlanta at 5:30 p.m. for the Battle of the Borders Classic, it marks the fourth consecutive year that Godby has gone out of state for a major game in the first few two weeks of the regular season. The farthest was a trip to Maryland in 2013 to play DeMatha High, a game televised on ESPN.

Can any team dethrone Godby football?

•Rickards welcomes Madison County to Cox Stadium at 6:00 p.m. There’s a parade from Rickards’ bus ramps to the stadium at 4:30 p.m. with food available for purchase at the stadium.

@BigBendPreps Instagram Photo of the Week

The Lincoln swim team takes to the pool for practice Tuesday at Jack McLean Park under the skies of impending rain.

The Lincoln swim team takes to the pool for practice Tuesday at Jack McLean Park under the skies of impending rain.

Blast from the Past

You may be surprised to know that this is the Rickards High School band, circa 1971.

You may be surprised to know that this is the Rickards High School band, circa 1971.

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