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Lakewood High School unveils new football pitch and track at John Ford Stadium – Press Telegram

LAKEWOOD — Nothing beats home, especially when it comes to a new, multimillion-dollar football field at Lakewood High School.

Hundreds of community members joined the Lancers football team as they unveiled the school’s new football field turf and nine-lane track at John Ford Stadium during a rededication ceremony on Saturday evening.

Officials said the upgrades cost around $7 million.

  • AJ Alvarez, left, walks away from a defender during a scrimmage as Lakewood High School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its newly renovated John Ford Stadium in Lakewood on Saturday, March 26, 2022. (Sam Gangwer, photographer collaborater)

  • Devon Bush, left, celebrates scoring a touchdown in a scrimmage game on the new artificial surface as Lakewood High School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its newly renovated John Ford Stadium in Lakewood on Saturday, March 26, 2022. (Sat Gangwer, collaborating photographer)

  • A wide receiver jumps for the ball during a scrimmage as Lakewood High School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its newly renovated John Ford Stadium in Lakewood on Saturday, March 26, 2022. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Macc Manu, right, celebrates the ‘quarterback sacking’ in a fast-paced scrimmage between seniors and incoming college football players as Lakewood High School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its newly renovated John Ford Stadium in Lakewood on Saturday, March 26, 2022. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Lakewood High School cheerleader Kyla Brown throws a cheer during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their newly renovated John Ford Stadium in Lakewood on Saturday, March 26, 2022. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • The Lakewood High School Marching Band marches the new track during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their newly renovated John Ford Stadium in Lakewood on Saturday, March 26, 2022. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Lakewood High School Principal Mona Merlo speaks to the small crowd at the ribbon cutting ceremony for their newly renovated John Ford Stadium in Lakewood on Saturday, March 26, 2022. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Members of Lakewood City Council and the Long Beach Unified School District joined Lakewood High School Principal Mona Merlo, center left, and Lakewood Mayor Jeff Wood, center right, as Lakewood High School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its newly renovated John Ford Stadium in Lakewood. Saturday, March 26, 2022. (Sam Gangwer, collaborating photographer)

  • The Lakewood High School Navy JROTC color guard parades at the start of Lakewood High School’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for its newly renovated John Ford Stadium in Lakewood on Saturday, March 26, 2022. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

  • Lakewood High School’s mascot, the Lancer, salutes during the ribbon cutting ceremony for their newly renovated John Ford Stadium in Lakewood on Saturday, March 26, 2022. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

“We want to bring the Lakewood community together again…everyone is excited and we can’t wait until August 19 to face Orange Vista at home,” said Lakewood football coach Justin Utupo. “It can’t happen soon enough.”

For the last 12 months of construction, Lakewood’s football team played all of its home games at Long Beach City College’s Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Coach Utupo, a proud 2010 graduate of Lakewood High School, knows how much home high school football games bring pride to the nation of the Lancers.

“If you want to play the best teams, you need to have the best facilities, so that’s a huge boost for our program,” Lakewood head football coach Justin Utupo said.

Friday night lights will never be the same in Lakewood.

“There’s a lot of hype and excitement right now,” Utupo continued. “There’s nothing quite like being home, so having that home-court advantage, protecting the court, playing in front of your friends, family and peers…nothing like Friday Night Lights at the John Ford Stadium.”

Utupo also said he wants the new football field, which will also be used for lacrosse, soccer and the school marching band, to be an asset that brings the community together.

“Our doors are always open to the community and to Lakewood alumni. Anytime we train here, if they want to walk the track, if they want to run in the stands, they are always welcome,” Utupo explained.

Meanwhile, current Lakewood football players say the upgrades have boosted their confidence on and off the pitch.

“I feel like it gives us a better sense of who we are because we played at Veterans Stadium all last season, which is an away game for us,” the defensive back/carrier said. Lakewood Zion Smith junior ball. “We didn’t have our fan base and the people who usually come to support us, so it’s pretty cool that we can play in the spotlight at home now and have these people cheering us on every game.”

Smith is looking forward to playing home games at Lakewood High School in his senior year.

“It’s an incredible stadium. I feel like we have the best stadium in the Moore League and maybe even the CIF, so that’s pretty cool,” Smith said.

As an emerging leader, Smith believes her team’s confidence is growing and she still wants to protect her new ground.

“I feel like it gives us fire and another motivation that we don’t want to lose at home, so it’s going to be a good year for us,” Smith continued. “We will take every game seriously, but the home games will be particularly special for us.”

Coach John Ford

The stadium is named after the late John Ford, a legendary Lakewood football coach who won five Moore League champions and took the Lancers to the 1970 CIF title game.

“When Coach Ford was the coach here (in the 1970s), these were some of the best football teams in the history of the program,” Utupo explained. “Coach Ford laid the foundation for Lakewood football, pride, tradition, expectations and standards.”

“We want to emulate that. We want our boys to take those teams and how tenaciously they played and how they performed off the pitch. We want that in our program today,” Utupo explained.

Meanwhile, Utupo hopes to do his fellow alumni proud by bringing Lakewood back to the CIF Southern Section Playoffs in the upcoming fall season. Lakewood was 3-7 last year and narrowly missed the playoffs, after losing a tiebreaker to Compton for third place in the Moore League automatic playoffs.

“It’s definitely one of our expectations and goals this season and we’re improving every year,” Utupo said. “We just have to put everything together and win football games and take care of business in class because all that fancy stuff means nothing if we can’t take care of business on and off the pitch.”

The ceremony also included a scrum between seniors and underclassmen and an elders’ game.

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