The entrance to W.W. Skiles Athletic Field in Shelby will be used one more time when the Whippets host Madison on Aug. 19. (Richland Source file photo)

“Well it’s turn and face the Stars and Stripes

It’s fighting back them butterflies

It’s call it in the air, alright yes sir we want the ball

And it’s knocking heads and talking trash

It’s slinging mud and dirt and grass

It’s ‘I got your number, I got your back when your back’s against the wall’

You mess with one man you got us all

The boys of fall.” 

— Song performed by Kenny Chesney

SHELBY — Kenny Chesney played football at Gibbs High School, just northeast of Knoxville, Tenn., in the 1980s.

It clearly had an impact on the 54-year-old country star, witnessed by his decision to record the “Boys of Fall” in 2010, an homage to the sport of high school football.

Based upon his respect for the sport, the leaders of Shelby City Schools would like Chesney to help them send out a century-old W.W. Skiles Field with a mighty flourish.

Superintendent Tim Tarvin confirmed Monday he has emailed Chesney’s representatives and asked the singer to stop in Shelby on Aug. 19 and perform his hit song as the Whippets host the Madison Rams in the final game scheduled for Skiles Field.

The stadium was first used in the 1920s and has long been a landmark of high school football in north central Ohio.

Geographically, it would not be too far out of Chesney’s way. Currently on tour, he is scheduled to perform Aug. 18 at historic Crew Stadium and then Ford Field in Detroit on Aug. 20.

Kenny Chesney

“We were sitting around talking about what we could do at the last game at Skiles Field. I said I was going to email Kenny Chesney and ask him to come and sing that song. Everyone looked at me like I had two heads,” Tarvin said, laughing.

“We know it’s a longshot, but the worst he can say is ‘no,'” said Tarvin, who said Chesney’s representatives have told him they would get the request to the singer, who has 34 Gold records to his credit.

It’s the last-ever game at the historic stadium, which rests in a flood plain beside the Black Fork and has crumbling concrete bleachers that were dedicated more than 60 years ago.

It’s that frequent flooding and the degradation of the bleachers that quickened the push to build a new home field for one of the state’s storied football programs.

Originally, the plan called for SHS to use Skiles Field for the 2022 season. But on Sept. 2, in week three of the season, Shelby will host former longtime Northern Ohio League rival Bellevue in a new $4 million athletic complex near the high school, a complex that includes an artificial turf surface.

Before that date, however, Tarvin and the community plan to celebrate the grass home field that has seen generations of Friday Night Heroes take the field for the Whippets.

Blaine Bowman

“It will be like a small festival,” Tarvin said of pre-game plans for Aug. 18. “We will have a tail-gate party at the (nearby) Black Fork Commons with live music and food vendors, starting at 5 p.m.

“After that, we will all head over to Skiles Field and cheer on the Whippets,” he said. “Hopefully, the weather is good.”

What if it rained on the final Skiles Field game?

“Well, that wouldn’t be inappropriate,” Tarvin said with a laugh.

Shelby, coming off three straight playoff seasons, looks to have a promising squad again this fall, recently winning the Ashland University 7-on-7 tournament.

That winning tradition, the history of the venue and the fact it’s between stops on his concert tour may be enough to earn a visit from Chesney, Tarvin hopes.

“We would love for Kenny to come by and sing that song before our final game at Skiles Field,” he said.

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