Tonawanda News — The tradition and nostalgia of Clinton Small Stadium are apparent to even the most unfamiliar outsider.
Warriors coach Rob Gross said the sound of the train as it rushes past the field on game day is one of his fondest childhood memories.
“I love everything about the place,” Gross said. “I remember having people watch through the windows of the birch beer factory when we played. It’s just an amazing environment.”
On Friday night Clinton Small Stadium will house the 103rd T-NT game, the final such contest for the storied field. It will leave behind a lifetime’s worth of memories for those who once battled on its surface or watched each pass and tackle written into Tonawanda’s history book.
Clinton Small coached the Warriors from 1949 until 1973, compiling a 108-69-15 record and five league championships. His coaching ability and contributions to Tonawanda students has been well-documented and his statue outside of the stadium reads “The Greatest Warrior.”
Robert “Half” Holloway worked at Tonawanda High School in some capacity for 37 years — first as a member of the football team’s coaching staff, then as the head baseball coach and finally as athletic director, a position he held for 14 years.
The 78-year-old former math teacher saw his first T-NT game back in 1938 and was instantly hooked.
“We’ve had glory years — not as many as North Tonawanda — but ours started in 1957 when there were two young guys at the time: Rod Cheesley and Al Canter. They really turned the whole program around,” Holloway said. “In the early 50s, I hate to say it, but we were really terrible. We beat North Tonawanda 20-0 in ‘57.”
Holloway is a vault of information, providing an eye into the history of the T-NT rivalry and, more specifically, the Tonawanda football program. He remembers three games in particular that were played at Clinton Small Stadium that have stood the test of time.