Sports Editor’s note: The following is the fourth in a series of stories highlighting each of the Tri-County’s high school football stadiums and what makes each one special to their respective players, coaches and fan base. The series will be completed alphabetically.
By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
Every time the North Laurel Jaguars take the football field before a home game, the Guns N' Roses mega-hit “Welcome to the Jungle” comes pounding through the stadium's PA system and if you watch closely, you can almost see the mood change all around the place.
The Jungle is where the Jaguars have played their home football games since the school's inception in 1993, but until recently, there hasn't been much of an intimidation factor for the Jaguars to use to their advantage.
After finishing the 2012 regular season with a 6-4 record (3-2 at home), Chris Larkey's squad made the playoffs for the first time under his watch. Prior to that, Larkey admits there haven’t been many reasons for opposing teams to worry when coming in to The Jungle.
“Obviously, you always want to defend your home field and that's the most important thing there is when it comes to high school football,” Larkey said. “The more home games you win, the more excitement you generate for your team. That all kind of snowballs for the team in the fact that if you generate excitement in the community, you get more people behind you throughout the season.
“Other than some big wins at home, we just haven't done a lot of great things here yet, so it's something that hasn't really worked to our advantage as much as it could have,” he added.
As for a few things that set The Jungle apart from other local stadiums, Larkey said there are several reasons he feels like North Laurel has one of the better facilities in the area.
“We have a great facility here at North Laurel and it’s a really nice place to play football and a nice place for the fans to watch a football game,” Larkey said. “We have the huge bleachers, which keeps you from being right on top of each other, although it gets pretty crowded when the fans come out.
“The atmosphere is great when things are going right and that really gets our kids pumped up and into the game,” he added. “We also have really nice visitors' bleachers, which a few of the local places don't have, that keep the fans separated and makes for a good experience.”
As far as the team not being very intimidating of late, that could very easily change for the Jaguars this season as Larkey returns one of the most experienced teams since he took over the program. With a pair of 1,000-yard rushers back this season in Michael Nelson and Gabe Blair, Larkey said he feels like the sky is the limit for this year's team.
“Like I said before, we have a great place to play football and great kids,” Larkey said. “We have an opportunity this season to do something special, but what we do is going to be determined by the kids we have on our team.
“If they want to come out and go through the motions and be happy with just being on the football field, that's what they'll be remembered for,” he added. “If they want to come out and work their tails off and be remembered as the best team to ever come through North Laurel, they have the ability to do just that. Hopefully we can come out and win some football games at home and establish some dominance at home so maybe people will fear The Jungle when they come walking through those gates.”