There’s no place like a home away from home


Mark Shelley

Tompkins Weekly


For many teams, road games provide a tough challenge. A new locker room, a new field, and the travel can cause confusion and disorientation for some. The relief of returning to the comfort of one’s home facilities is a staple of any sport, especially football. In the case of the 2018 Dryden Lions, there is no comfort. There are no “home” games.

With the renovations taking place at Dryden High School to improve facilities, the decision was made to move any home games for the 2018 football season to other area locations. After careful considerations, Dryden decided to play their home games in the nearby city of Cortland. This decision came amidst delays in renovations that would force the Lions to relocate their first home game. To avoid any changes in the progress of the renovations and to keep the season as fluid as possible, the athletic administration decided to relocate all scheduled home games.

With a “home” game already in the books, the Lions have already played at one of their homes away from home, Cortland High School. With three more scheduled “home” games slated to be played at SUNY Cortland’s facility, Head Coach Justin Wood instructed his players to go about business as usual. “It doesn’t matter where we play, we have to treat every field like it’s our home field,” Wood told his team, “We have to treat every game like it’s a game we have to win and not be worried about where we are.”

While there are many differences between Dryden’s facility and a college stadium, Wood and his staff are making the most of nearby location. “We’re keeping things as close to a home game as we can, being only 15 minutes from Cortland,” Wood said.

Because of the short commute to the game field, the Lions are able to use their own lockers at Dryden High School before taking the bus to Cortland. “Things in life aren’t going to go your way…you have to embrace it and control what you can,” said Wood.

Wood’s lesson certainly has not fallen on deaf ears, as his team has controlled what they can, so far. In their first “home” game, the Lions felt right at home and came away with a three-score win over Southern Hills.

As almost every athlete knows, there are pregame rituals that take place just before the start of each contest. Wood believes that the location doesn’t change the rituals and the preparation of his players. For the coaching staff, the preparations are altered dramatically. “When you have a home game, you can get things set up easier,” said Wood.

In the modern game of high school football, end zone cameras, extra jerseys, and communication devices are all relatively simple preparations for a home team. An added level of responsibility is placed on the coaching staff to make sure that a road game is set up and running as smooth as a true home game. “It’s a little more stress on the coaches to get that stuff taken care of,” said Wood, “We’re not going to make excuses for it.”

With the team and the coaching staff carrying on as if nothing has changed, the only remaining concern was about the attendance of Dryden supporters. While Cortland is a short drive, the coaches and administrators at Dryden High School wanted to make sure that the Lion faithful were in attendance for games. “We are putting events out there for each game,” said Wood, “We’re putting our own money into trying to get people there because it is important that people know where we’re playing.” The hard work has paid off as a significant crowd was on hand to witness the first “home” game at Cortland High School.

As the season progresses, Wood is optimistic about the opportunity to play a late-season game on the Lions’ true, home field. No matter where Dryden will play their games, the Lions look to be ready to make any home a home of their own.


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