The Saint Monica High School varsity football team practices on the newly acquired artificial turf on Wednesday. (photo by Brandon Wise)

ST. MONICA — Shouts echo through the school quad as football players run through drills on a Wednesday afternoon at St. Monica. Standing in lines 10 yards apart, they toss tennis balls back and forth in a routine aimed at improving concentration and hand-eye coordination.

Beneath their feet, nestled in a corner between the walls of the gymnasium and the school’s west wing, lies a gift from the now-defunct Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League: the artificial turf field once used at games inside the Staples Center.

“It’s exciting,” St. Monica Head Coach Larry Muno said. “I mean, gosh, in the history of this school since its inception, we’ve never had a field on campus. And now we have a field on campus. It’s awesome.”

Only 20 yards, length-wise, of the forest green turf have been brought out on this particular day, with the rest of the portable 50-yard field, not counting end zones, is rolled up in nearby bundles. But for the moment, even these 20 yards feel like a blessing.

“We’re just very lucky,” Muno said.

Lucky enough that a parishioner at St. Monica, Sam Lagana, also happens to be a recognized voice-over talent whose announcing credits include Avengers home games. After learning that the disbanded team’s game field was sitting in a warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles, Muno set to work mailing letters, sending e-mails and placing phone calls to Casey Wasserman, who purchased the Avengers in 1998 and owned the franchise until it folded last April.

Lagana, the associate vice chancellor for athletics at Pepperdine University, proved to be influential in swaying the prominent sports and entertainment mogul. In early June, the field was delivered to St. Monica’s campus — a donation from Wasserman.

“When we saw it come on we were like, ‘Woah, that’s AstroTurf right there,’” linebacker Chris Corbally said.

It was a welcome sight for the Mariners, who had been practicing on “worn-down grass” at local parks and sometimes even on the concrete of the school quad.

“They were fired up,” Muno said of his players. “It was incredible, just the fact that we have something that’s our own and that we’re proud of. The kids, they want something to be proud of.”

Besides the pleasure of finally getting an on-campus field, the team has been appreciative of the physical advantages of playing on turf.

“On the concrete it would hurt a lot. Your knees would get messed up,” said Corbally, who calls the turf more forgiving, as well as “a lot more fun.”

A lot more practical, too. Last fall, the Mariners hosted three games at Santa Monica College’s Corsair Field, which also sports artificial turf, and they play there again on Oct. 30 against Bellarmine Jefferson.

Thus, a once-forgotten field left by the Avengers should help St. Monica better recreate actual game conditions — and perhaps ultimately help the team improve on last season’s 3-6 record.

“I think it’s going to help just being able to get out here and work on our footing,” quarterback Matthew Partyka said. “I think it will get us ready a lot better.”

Added Muno: “We can do everything on that field. We can practice throwing, we can practice tackling, do everything. Did you see the pad on it? It’s a significant pad. So it’s a safe field. It’s easily run out.

“It’s perfect.”

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