Home field advantage. It’s something that every player and coach speaks of with such importance.
Having your home fans cheering behind you when you take the field for a big game, especially in the postseason, is something truly unmatched.
That’s why we decided to rank the best stadiums and fields in the state to host a high school football game.
Now this list wasn’t put together based on one single reason. This list combines how the stadium looks, history, amenities and atmosphere. Success on the field is included in atmosphere.
Winning = better crowds. Better crowds = better atmosphere.
Simple math… I think.
Also, my own personal experiences at these venues has absolutely, without a doubt, factored into the rankings… I mean, they’re my rankings.
I know that there are a handful of fields being renovated as we speak. Since we did not have a football season this fall and I haven’t been able to attend a game there, those fields have not been included in the list. Yet.
Please share your disdain with me below.
Now for the only reason you clicked on this story: the top 10 list of football stadiums and fields in the state.
No. 10 Richard B. Blythe Field, Deep River
I am of the belief that no matter where you live in the state, Deep River is far away, even if you live right down the road.
But the home of the Valley Regional/Old Lyme Warriors is a field I enjoy, and well worth the trip.
When you drive into the high school, they have attendants waiting to see your ticket (or press pass), they direct you where to park and the experience gives you this big-time event feel.
The first time I went in 2013, I took the hour-plus drive from Torrington to Deep River. It was great on the way there. On the way home after Valley Regional defeated Gilbert/Northwestern 35-0, I got lost and didn’t have any service on my phone so my GPS was useless. By the time I got service, I realized I went about 20 minutes in the wrong direction.
That said, I still have fond memories of Deep River and have been back a couple of more times.
As you walk toward the field, you see the press box and food area all set up before you and once you arrive at the field there is a giant grass hill in front of you.
The hill is easily my favorite part of the venue, as fans sit wherever they would like. Some bring their own chairs and some just sit on the hill. And it makes sense that the program plays to #DefendTheHill.
While there are only stands on one side of the field, I believe it was done on purpose. If you stand on the far sideline, you feel so far away and you’re staring at just the hill of fans who are most likely rooting against you.
What opposing coaches say: “The way the field is set up, you have no support. It feels like you are playing on your own. It’s definitely an intimidating place to play… They give you food for the way home. You feel really bad about yourself (after a loss), but you get a hot dog in your hand after.” – ROCKVILLE’S ERICK KNICKERBOCKER
No. 9 Veterans Memorial Stadium, New Britain
Ever season since 2014 at least one state championship game has been held at Veterans Memorial Stadium, despite the objections to those who live in the southern part of the state.
It has size, it has big enough stands on both sides of the field and the field is pristine. Heck, even the press box is very nice — except for the stairs on the way up. They scare me.
The big-time regular season games have also stood out.
Two years ago, when an undefeated Southington and New Britain met at Veterans, they played an absolute back-and-forth classic.
The stands were packed. The crowds were lively. Add in the amazing New Britain High band and it’s a great place to watch a game.
The real bonus is the canon that goes off after every New Britain touchdown, even though I jump every time it goes off. Hilarious, New Britain.
What opposing coaches say: “I played (for Bristol Central) at sellout games there. When that thing is filled up, it’s a great atmosphere. The kids are excited for games there.” – SOUTHINGTON’S MIKE DRURY
No. 8 DeFilippo Field at Ryan Athletic Complex, Derby
The new complex at Derby High School is easily the nicest facility in the state.
A top-of-the-line weight room, spacious locker rooms for both home and away teams, an auditorium to host banquets and a concession stand that serves the legendary Raider Dog. The complex is nestled into the hillside that looks spectacular in the fall. And don’t forget the great Roseland Apizza is just a short walk away.
The reason why it only comes in on my list a little higher than many would have guessed is because, outside of the complex opener against Torrington and the playoff game it hosted for rival Ansonia in 2019, there hasn’t been a big-time Derby game there… yet.
If or When the Derby football team comes back to state relevance, this place could be one of the best places in the state to be on a Friday night.
What opposing coaches say: “It’s a small college level type, that kind of feel to it. (Former) Coach (George) French showed me around for a little bit and I was very impressed with what they have to offer. The visiting locker room was spectacular and spacious.” – TORRINGTON’S GAITAN RODRIGUEZ
No. 7 Larry McHugh Field, Middletown (Xavier)
This is somewhat of a newer choice.
Up until a couple of seasons ago the Falcons didn’t play the majority of their games at Larry McHugh Field, they played at Palmer Field across town.
The field was renovated in the past decade and dedicated to the legendary former Xavier coach Larry McHugh in 2014. It wasn’t until the 2017-2018 season when the Falcons made the full move to the field and called it home.
Some might have questioned why Xavier would relinquish an obvious home-field advantage at Palmer to McHugh? Would the Black Hole student section and the Xavier fans, screaming at opposing teams along the south end zone at Palmer have the same effect at McHugh?
But now that Xavier has settled in, McHugh Field is coming into its own.
When you arrive at the field you are greeted with a beautiful view with hills at the far end of the field. If you arrive before kickoff before the sun goes down, it’s an even better sight.
While not on top of opponents, the stands are still close and get packed with the Falcon faithful who are loud, but not as loud as the Xavier band.
As an opposing coach you are forced to stare across at the packed stands rising behind their Xavier team.
The team exits from their pristine high school across from the field and march toward the field, giving it an impressive feel. Add in a pretzel for $1.50 and you have me sold.
What opposing coaches say: “The walk out is impressive and is part of the grandeur of high school football. They have done a nice job with that facility. You can’t help but notice (the fans) when you go to those games.” – FAIRFIELD PREP’S KEITH HELLSTERN
No. 6 Jarvis Stadium at Nolan Athletic Complex, Ansonia
As we have seen history is a huge part when determining what are the best places for football in the state and everyone knows there is a ton of history regarding the Ansonia football program.
Since coming from Long Island to Connecticut to work, I have lived in a handful of towns, including a three-year stint in Ansonia just four blocks away from Jarvis Stadium.
No matter whom the Chargers were playing on Friday night, Wakelee Avenue was always backed up.
There were some nights when I could hear the roar of the crowd from my house.
But the best part is driving north on Wakelee Avenue and seeing the lights from the stadium rise above the houses in town. The stands can feel a bit cavernous, but many like to watch from the sidelines — especially in the corner on the north end zone where legendary coach Jack Hunt used to hold court in his retirement.
Every corner of the stadium seems to have a story and the connection the town has to the football program is impressive.
What opposing coaches say: “It feels like football when you walk into that place. You think about the great games that have been played on there. The teams that have come before you. A lot of great football has been played there… The whole town goes, they’re so close to you on the sidelines, it really brings the fans into the game.” – WOODLAND’S CHRIS MOFFO
No. 5 Robustelli Field at Boyle Stadium, Stamford
Roubustelli Field at Boyle Stadium is the one field on which every Fairfield County football player wants to play.
It has a history of hosting some great games and legendary players — Andy Robustelli, Bobby Valentine, Pete Demmerle come to mind — since it hosted its first football game in 1938. State championships and FCIAC titles have been won there and a classic Thanksgiving game between rivals Stamford and Westhill is hosted there every other year.
The cement stands that are on both sides of the stadium give it an old school football vibe and I dig that vibe.
The locker rooms are located underneath the stands and the teams come out on the field through the tunnel under the stands. Very pro like.
The parking lot is large enough to gather before the game and enjoy some time before the big game happens.
Boyle has been renovated recently, updating the stands and the press box to modernize the facility. That it’s tucked away in beautiful downtown Stamford, makes this an iconic field in the state.
What opposing coaches say: “Everyone has a story about Boyle Stadium…. There is a reason why, even the most successful programs in our area of the state want to play there…No matter what your record is, it’s a big deal to play there.” – WESTHILL’S JOE DEVELLIS
No. 4 Ken Strong Stadium, West Haven
Ken Strong is easily one of the state’s most recognizable football facilities. It’s been home to a great program in West Haven and regularly hosts state championship games.
It’s spacious, the stands are big and right on top of the field. For the reporters, the press box is big enough to work in for a big game.
No matter the weather, the field is always in top condition and everyone knows that the Fitzgerald Field Sports Complex grounds crew, managed by the incomparable Chris Everone, is the best in the state.
Seriously, Everone and Ken Strong has come through in a pinch for the CIAC more than a handful of times when the weather doesn’t cooperate, helping us get state finals and Thanksgiving week games played on time.
The stadium has this aura around it when you arrive. There’s history there.
Great West Haven teams, classic playoff games and memorable state championship games have all been played at Ken Strong Stadium. Be sure to read the plaque when you enter the stadium about Ken Strong, who was one of the first Connecticut high school football players to play in the NFL.
When you walk in – after a short walk if you’re lucky to find a good parking spot, or a much longer walk if you’re not so lucky – you get this feeling you’re arriving at an event.
As you get closer the lights become bigger and bigger and the excitement grows. And, if it is a late-season game, make sure to layer up because it can get windy being just a stone’s throw away from Long Island Sound.
What opposing coaches say: “The history is there and the history that we have there, I absolutely love playing there…You know you’re coaching high school football in Connecticut when you’re coaching on the sidelines at Ken Strong. Not like you’ve made it, but you’re coaching in a big game, whether you’re coaching against West Haven or anyone else there.” – XAVIER’S ANDY GUYON
No. 3 Dunning Stadium, New Canaan
The stadium that is tucked behind New Canaan High is one of my all-time favorite places to watch a high school football game.
First, there is always a great crowd thanks to the perennial championship contender at NCHS.
Second, you always know it is going to be a hard-fought game because whichever team comes to New Canaan wants to beat the historically successful football program that calls Dunning home.
Third, it’s nice, highlighted by a rustic pavilion entrance that many have tried to replicate over the years.
The facility is top of the line and the great teams and players that have called it home are known by many. The scoreboard, which shows graphics and replays of big moments, is one of the best in the state and it just screams that you’ve arrived Fairfield County.
The home stands are close to the action and that absolutely plays in the atmosphere of the game.
And it has a state of the art sound system that is topped off with the booming voice of Bob VanDerheyden that gives the field it’s professional feel.
What opposing coaches say: “You know when you go down there, it’s a well-coached, well-prepared team in everything. It’s almost like a mini college atmosphere down there. Everything is ready for you, the pageantry before the game is very exciting.” – ST. JOSEPH’S JOE DELLAVECCHIA
No. 2 Dalling Field, Trumbull (St. Joseph)
The great Sir Elton John has said “Oh, Saturday night’s alright for fighting” and while it might be, if he were ever to attend a game at Dalling Field, he might change his tune to “Saturday days are meant for football.”
Ok probably not. Everyone loves the Friday night lights and I do too, but I am a big fan of having games on Saturday morning or early afternoon.
It completes the weekend and since St. Joseph is one of the top programs in the state, I have spent a good deal of Saturdays at Dalling Field.
It’s an amazing place to watch a game – once you get past the parking issue.
And the way to do that is by picking up a sandwich at Ray and Mike’s (uh, in Hamden, where I live), and driving down early and sitting in your car while you eat your breakfast, obviously.
But that’s not really necessary. You can grab a bite at one of the tailgates, which sit right behind the end zone, hosted by the lucky ones who get to park there. Or you can get fed by the nearby concession tents, which serve right-off-the grille burgers and dogs. They do it up big and they do it right.
— Pete Paguaga (@PetePaguaga) September 21, 2019
Then there is the actual game. The fans are packed to the gills. Fat heads of players, students all wearing the same color in unison. They’re loud, they’re fun and they add so much to the game.
And if you don’t get a spot in the stands, you can stand around the field. There are even barstool type seats behind one of the end zones.
St. Joseph did itself a favor by refurbishing this field just a few years ago.
What opposing coaches say: “It’s intimidating. Their fans are certainly enthusiastic. When you go up there it’s kind of a daunting experience… We’ve won some games up there, but they’re tough to beat up there for sure.” – NEW CANAAN’S LOU MARINELLI
No. 1 Strong Field at the Surf Club, Madison (Hand)
Let’s be honest, I think we all knew which place would be my No. 1.
As a native Long Islander, I love the beach and this field is unique in that it is literally at a beach club.
Before you arrive at the field, you can stop at Bradley and Wall to pick up a delicious sandwich — their No. 27 is a favorite of many.
Then you can make your way down to the Surf Club right off Long Island Sound. You might want to get there early and prepare to leave early because the facilities one drawback is there’s only one road. But you can at least find a nice parking spot looking out on the water.
The facility received a much-needed upgrade by adding a granite pavilion at the entrance, adorned with booster club-engraved slabs and monuments for the Hand Hall of Fame honoring the great coaches, players and teams past.
For the fans of cool sunsets, this one is a sight to behold in September and early October.
The field itself is top notch. The one-sided stands can be a pain. But the renowned Hand Marching Band needs its stage and, since it plays the hits and keeps the fans involved, the trade-off is fine.
The Hand entrance is also one of my favorites, not that a lot of teams don’t run through banners when they are announced. But having the band and cheerleaders line the field as the team runs through it to the fight song On Wisconsin! is a pretty cool touch.
And if anyone knows how hard the Hand players run out on to the field it’s me.
This must have been what Mufasa say when he was in the stampede.
Sorry Connor Dickie didn't mean to get in your way lol
— Pete Paguaga (@PetePaguaga) November 16, 2019
What opposing coaches say: “The one thing that I do like is that no matter what, you will have an awesome crowd. Notre Dame brings people, Madison brings people, it will be a great atmosphere… They’re hard to beat at home, we have done it, but they are hard to beat as well.” – NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN’S JOE DECAPRIO
The honorable mentions with one or two things that make it a fun place to watch a game:
- Van Why Field, Winsted (Gilbert): The “Van Why Walk.”
- NFA Field, Norwich (Norwich Free Academy): The campus is gorgeous and the field sits directly behind it. Wonderful on fall Saturday afternoons.
- Vanacore Field, North Haven: The town comes out and the local fire department brings its rigs to celebrate touchdowns with a siren-and-light display.
- Killingly High School Sports Complex, Dayville (Killingly): They just refurbished the field. A canon shoots after each touchdown. The stands sit above and on top of the action.
- Woodland High School Field, Beacon Falls (Woodland): Long walk to the top, but it’s worth it for the view. You can see the lights from Route 8 far below. Like North Haven, the local fire department in attendance to celebrate touchdowns.
- Palmer Field, Middletown (Xavier): On a baseball field, with stands on one side of the field that are right on top of the opposing team. Xavier now plays here once a year, stirring the echoes of legendary players, teams and games.
- Maher Field, Wallingford (Choate): In the middle of the campus with no stands, just standing room only with the fans basically on top of the field. You won’t find many settings as throwback as this.
- Lancaster Field at Tiger Hollow (Ridgefield): Great view and easily the best pavilion in the state where you can watch the game on closed-circuit TV while waiting for your snacks.