Blanchet Catholic School's new turf field. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

For the three years James Moore has played football at Blanchet High School, every game has felt like an away game.

The Catholic school hasn’t had a football field, so Moore and his teammates played at Willamette University, hauling their equipment with them.

Tonight, Cavaliers will celebrate homecoming on a brand-new turf field in front of the school, built over the summer with about $2 million from alumni, parent and community donors.

“We finally get to step on it for the first time,” Moore said, grinning.

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Blanchet is Salem’s only Catholic secondary school, with about 320 middle and high school students. Last year, school leaders launched a $4.4 million fundraising campaign to make renovations for the school’s 25th anniversary. They’ve now raised over $4 million, school president Bob Weber said.

READ: Blanchet Catholic School leaders raising $4.4 million for campus improvements

A track and turf field was the largest project on the list. The school had a grass soccer field out front, but no track for the state champion track and field team to practice on and no football field.

Weber said the school pushed its homecoming game back to mid-October so the field would be ready for the game against rival Salem Academy.

“When we broke ground, our goal was to play football on Friday night,” he said.

The new field includes lights and a grandstand for spectators. Alumni from across the country are returning to Blanchet for Friday night’s game: Weber said 300 people have registered for a tailgating party before the game, so he’s expecting more to turn up.

“Traditionally our community is not the greatest at registering,” he said.

Moore, the team’s quarterback, said he was surprised to see how quickly the field came together. Most of the turf was installed over a single weekend, and students watched eagerly as work was done over the summer.

The field at Blanchet Catholic School under construction on Oct. 1, 2019 (Courtesy/North Santiam Paving)

North Santiam Paving excavated the old field, installing a new storm drain system, moving sewer lines and installing other utilities before paving the track. The track still needs to be surfaced, and Weber says they hope to complete that during the sunny days forecasted for next week.

The school’s soccer teams will also use the new field.

Bella Alley, a senior and the girls’ soccer captain, said the turf is an improvement over the grass they used to play on because it’s more like what other schools in their league have.

“It has given us motivation to push ourselves this season because we’ve been so excited to play on it,” she said.

The team has been practicing at Capital Football Club while waiting for the turf to be finished. They’ll have their first home game on the new field Oct. 24, also against Salem Academy. Alley said she’s expecting a win.

“We always play with a lot of heart when we play Salem Academy,” she said.

Reporter Rachel Alexander: rachel@salemreporter.com or 503-575-1241.