(Source: Salt Lake Tribune; Franklin County Citizen, 1919-1935; Images of America — Preston, by Necia P. Seamons; Hometown Album, compiled by Newell Hart)
The game of football hit Franklin County when the Oneida Stake Academy hired Woody Romney, a Salt Lake City native, to be their coach. At the time Romney had been playing outstanding football at the University of Utah, and had only recently returned from military service in World War I. When he met with the young men of Franklin County interested in football, there were only 18 of them. They loved sports and were athletically inclined, but football — the rules, the uniforms, the needed techniques to win a game — was a step into the unknown. Coach Woody Romney was ready for the challenge.
Wilford Woodruff Romney was born in May of 1897, in Salt Lake City, a son of George E. Romney and Hannah Ottinger. He loved sports, all of them, and his athleticism was evident in all teams fortunate enough to have him on their roster. His high school years at West High in Salt Lake showed promise. He was a four letter man and developing rapidly when he received a badly broken leg during a collision playing a football game with East High. It threatened to end his hopes of an athletic future, but a year later he tried out for the freshman basketball team at the University of Utah and was made the captain of the team. From then on he was consistently involved in the U’s baseball, basketball and football programs.
Woody was the captain of the “Giants” team when intra-mural baseball made its debut at the University. Ten men were designated as the captains of the teams. “Every man in the university is a member of one of these teams, the membership of which is posted on the bulletin board in the gym.” The athletic department had purchased two dozen balls and half a dozen bats for the use of 495 men who would make up the teams in this endeavor and it was up to the players to provide what other equipment they would need to be playing the national pastime. They ended up having 10 teams — a far cry from the ‘U’s sports endeavors today.
When World War I was shaking the world Romney enlisted at a local recruiting station. There he passed “the examination for chief quartermaster in the aviation section and his next step will be that of a commissioned officer.” He went to Seattle and the University of Washington to begin training in the aviator section of the United States Navy. Again his athletic abilities came to light and he played football for the Naval Training Station team at the university, being recognized as a “star on the gridiron.”
Upon returning to Salt Lake City, and the ‘U,’ the newspapers of the day were excited for Utah’s 1919 football chances. Woody was back and Coach Fitzpatrick would likely give him a job in the Utah backfield. Woody’s brother Milton was also a strong pick for the backfield and the newspapers felt the Romney brothers were a big plus for the team.
From the ‘U’ to Preston was a big distance in miles, but his mentor who had recommended this job to Woody was fully aware of Woody’s talent and tenacity. The game of football has been an important part of the fall season in this area ever since. It took several years a football field to be built, however.
In 1922 the Oneida Stake Academy became Preston High School. Games of baseball and football took place at what was then the city park, just east of today’s rodeo grounds. Records of the plans for an athletic stadium to go with the school do not appear until 1928.
The perfect spot, close to the school and with sufficient space, was a swail just north of the Academy building’s original location, but much work was required to turn this swampy stretch of ground into an athletic stadium.The locals called it Frog Pond. There were trees, water, drainage and certainly frogs to be taken care of before it could host any sort of activity other than hunting for tadpoles or wading in the muck. The kids living in the neighborhood loved the pond with the adventures it held.
The Quiver yearbook shows that the field was completed before the year 1934. The financial end of things was handled by an organization under the county commissioners. Ern Porter was appointed to direct the work under the county’s first foreman, Wilford Smith. Smith’s home was just across the street, north of the pond. Drainpipe and tiles were placed under many loads of fill dirt to build the field. Many man hours on teams of horses and equipment of the time contributed to the forming of the field. It was a labor of love, and included an oval running track around the sports field, as well as some seating for spectators.
In 1970 the field was rebuilt and renamed the O. R. Cutler Field. Dr. Orvid Riley Cutler had played on that first football team for Oneida Stake Academy in 1919. IN addition to a lifetime of service to the people of Franklin County he served on the school board for many years and as mayor of Preston.