When the Wheaton football team takes the field tonight (Friday) at 6:30pm against Kennedy it will be the last time at old Richard Riddle Stadium for the two rivals. This summer construction will begin on the new Wheaton High School. The 48 year old school will be replaced with a new school which will be built right where the Knights hope to be taking a step closer to a playoff. Building the facility on the stadium will keep students from being shuttled to other schools while construction is in progress. Meantime it will mean “away” games for the Fall and Spring teams for a few years. Wheaton is expected to not only have a new building but will receive a desperately needed new artificial turf field. Although the new turf brings it's own controversies, regular grass is difficult and expensive to maintain. Because of that, the school’s teams seldom use the field for practices to help preserve what grass is left.
Wheaton’s final home game will be against Lackey HS (Charles County) on November 2nd. The Lackey game will be important due to the playoff implications but will lack the emotion of the Kennedy game since Wheaton and Lackey have very little history together. Both Kennedy and Lackey have 1-7 records so for Wheaton the potential is there for their first trip to the playoffs since 1996. Interestingly enough one alumni remembers a bigger rivalry. Linda On (Class of ’84) remembers Richard Montgomery in the 80’s being the big rivalry.
Visiting alumni who might be coming out for the Wheaton/Kennedy game, and returning for the first time since graduating many years ago, might be surprised by one big change which took place not that long ago. It was only around 2005 that metal bleachers were added. Prior to that, Richard Riddle Stadium sported concrete stands, still visible beneath the metal bleachers. Wheaton HS alum, and current Wheaton Varsity Boys basketball coach Sharief Hashim (Class of ’93), remembers when he returned to the school as an assistant coach in 2007 seeing the new bleachers for the first time, “I thought the bleachers were much more comfortable”. His fondest memory at the stadium was senior year and the Knights football team finishing 7-3. “It was the best record we had had in many years. We played Seneca Valley which was a good team that year and we beat them. Everyone rushed onto the field.”
Another former student, now Varsity Cheerleading Coach, Kim Weaver (Class '00), is excited about the new school but a part of her will the old grounds, "One of my fondest memories was when Maury Povich and Connie Chung came to one of our games. It was so neat to meet them. Homecoming games were packed with students, family, friends and alumni! Little siblings were dressed in homemade cheerleading uniforms. I really do miss the old stadium bleachers. The new ones look more professional but the old concrete ones made you feel like you were a part of the game."
The 2 story tower, painted gold with a sword slashing knight on the side has been an oddity at the field. As most school stadium towers, it seats the game announcer and scoreboard operator at the top, and the concession stand at the base. However, it wasn't built at the 50 yard line as most stadiums, but rather in the far corner of the stadium. This made for difficult viewing for the announcers trying to call any game. Players numbers got harder to read as they moved down to the far end of the field and almost impossible to tell where the ball was spotted, especially at night games.
It’s hoped that many former Wheaton students will come to re-live the great Wheaton/Kennedy rivalry while bidding farewell to a stadium filled with memories.