Trotwood-Madison twin brothers Keon’tae (left) and Ke’Shawn Huguely (both holding trophy) celebrate with teammates. Trotwood defeated Mansfield Senior 14-7 in overtime to win the Division III high school football championship at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton on Dec. 6, 2019. It was the Rams’ (12-3) third football state title, along with its 2011 and ‘17 championship teams. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Tom Benson Stadium used to be called Fawcett Stadium. It was rededicated in 2017 and named after the New Orleans Saints owner who donated $11 million to a $200 million project that involved the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the stadium and a surrounding area called Hall of Fame Village. Benson Stadium can seat 23,000 fans.
Alter coach Ed Domsitz has experienced state championship games in three stadiums. His team lost a final at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon in 2006, won championships in 2008 and 2009 at Fawcett Stadium, lost a title in 2014 at Ohio Stadium and lost at Benson Stadium in 2018.
Domsitz said Benson Stadium is a great venue and a good place to play.
“They are always well organized up there,” he said. “As coaches, we appreciate that. The distance is a factor, depending on what time of day you play. Certainly when we played in Ohio Stadium, that was a great thrill for the kids. It was a shorter distance and more centrally located. I’ve love to see it move around the state. If we were able to play in different stadiums, based on what the NCAA allows and what’s available, there are great places to play in southwest Ohio, central Ohio, northwest Ohio and certainly northeast Ohio.”
The decision to return to Canton came in part, Ute said, because of the “wow factor” associated with playing next to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and in a stadium that has hosted many NFL preseason games over the years.
“Coming up on 77 North,” Ute said, “and looking over and seeing our logo on the scoreboard, I told my wife, ‘The hair on my arm is standing up.’ I’m that excited for our student-athletes to get in a professional environment. We want our kids when they get off a bus to say, ‘Wow, this is something special,’ and not just for kids but for our coaches and our communities. This place certainly gives us that.”
Canton’s new Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF