PERRY TWP. – Fans attending a Perry Local football match next season will enter the stadium newly named in honor of the retired football coach Keith Wakefield.
The district school board on Thursday approved a resolution renaming the facility Wakefield Stadium.
In the resolution, the council recognized Wakefield’s commitment to using the football pitch as a classroom “to teach young men character, honour, loyalty and dignity in the face of victory or defeat in football and in life”.
While the longtime manager has enjoyed great success on the pitch, Wakefield is driven by more than just wins, the resolution says.
To a round of applause and a standing ovation from players, coaches, staff and board members, Wakefield told the crowd he would have stayed home had he known about the change stadium name.
That’s precisely why officials kept it a secret until the board meeting, Superintendent Scott Beatty said.
Wakefield, who announced his retirement in April, told the crowd he didn’t know what to say as his emotions boiled over.
“It’s not about one guy. It’s about the team,” the coach said. “It’s tough for me but I’m excited for Zach (Slates). I’m so proud.”
Prior to approving the resolution, the board approved the appointment of Slates as the team’s new head coach.
Slates started three years for the Panthers at guard, earning first-team honors for Repository All-Stark County and All-Federal League each season. He was a first-team All-Ohio as a junior and senior.
Perry went 29-7 in Slates’ three seasons, advancing to a state semifinal in 2000 and a regional semifinal in 2002.
He returned to coach at Perry when Keith Boedicker got the job from the Panthers in 2010 and stayed on when Wakefield returned to Perry in 2013.
“Being from Perry and playing under Coach Wakefield in high school and starting my coaching career at 20 with him at St. Vincent St. Mary was an experience,” Slates said. “It was an honor to learn from someone in a million halls of fame.”
Beatty said Wakefield’s retirement was bittersweet.
“I always said that if I had to win a football match, I wanted him to coach and prepare my team,” he added.
The board also unveiled the stadium’s new logo. The 15 white lines inside the black capital letters of Wakefield’s name represent the 15 league titles he won in his 30 seasons.
Two stars represent his appearances in Ohio High School Athletic Association state football championship games.
Wakefield spent 50 years coaching football, including 37 as a head coach and 29 years coaching at Perry.
During his time with Perry, he won 222 matches and 15 league titles.
His coaching career brought him to the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
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