MIDDLEBURY — Keeping anything concerning Northridge High School soccer a secret from Todd Woodworth was no easy task, yet the school pulled it off, stunning the founding father of the boys program by naming the field in his honor Saturday, Aug. 30.
“I had no idea,” Woodworth said a short while after the school unveiled two metal sheets forming a 3-foot by 24-foot sign that read, “Welcome to Todd Woodworth Field.”
“I can’t believe this,” a misty-eyed Woodworth said after the brief ceremony. “It’s an honor beyond words.”
It’s also an honor unprecedented in Northridge High School sports facility history, athletic director Dave Harms confirmed.
“I haven’t even (formally) given Dave my resignation yet,” joked Woodworth, who plans to retire at the end of this, his 24th, season. “I guess I have to now.”
The name unveiling was supposed to occur between games of a girl/boy doubleheader against Goshen, but because of a more than two-hour delay early in the girls game due to intermittent thunder and lightning, the ceremony was moved into a window of calm weather during the delay. The boys game was later postponed to Tuesday, Sept. 2.
Harms and 15th-year boys soccer assistant Lawrence Baltazar each said they believed Woodworth had been getting suspicious in recent days, yet the coach insisted otherwise.
“I thought maybe something was going on, but nothing like this,” Woodworth said.
The new sign will be installed on the press box, just above some other new signage that reads “Home of Northridge Raiders.”
“He’s been complaining about the new sign the school put up,” Baltazar said of Woodworth, “saying that it doesn’t say, ‘Welcome to.’ The old one used to, and he’s been like, ‘What’s up with that?’ And I’m like, ‘Maybe we can get it added on later.’ It was hard keeping this from him, really hard.”
School officials had quietly gotten approval from the school board on the renaming of the field.
"He’s very deserving — he’s the whole program,” Baltazar said. “He started it, and even started the feeder program with the (Middlebury) Magic. He’s built soccer in this community into what it is today. He’s the reason everybody comes back, the reason it feels like a big family. It’s the reason I coach. I love being a part of what he’s made here.”
Among those present Saturday were some of Woodworth’s ex-players, friends from his high school days at Westview, friends from his college days at Goshen, a couple fellow area head coaches and some siblings (conveniently, there had been a family reunion earlier in the day), along with his high school coach, Jim Miller, and his college coach, Dwain Hartzler.
Individuals who might’ve most aroused suspicion by virtue of their presence stayed out of sight until the ceremony.
Hartzler — who from 1976 to 2000 coached more than 30 GC players that went on to become high school or college coaches themselves — called Woodworth a coach in the making from the start.
“He pulled people along, pushed people, in a good way,” Harzler said, “and he clearly knew the game.”
On the lighter side, Hartzler said Woodworth’s nickname was “Goaliemonger,” because the forward was always in that area.
“He wasn’t a big-time scorer, but he was a leader, a skilled, scrappy, hard-working, enthusiastic player,” Hartzler said. “The other thing is I could never get him out of the locker room because he and his buddies were always playing soap hockey in there.”
The soap-hockey kid grew into a coach often too slippery for opponents to handle.
Though he started the Raider program from scratch — meaning some lean early years — Woodworth’s overall mark entering Saturday was 235-140-64 with nine sectional, five regional and four conference crowns.
“The reason he’s such a good coach is he’s not stuck in a system,” Baltazar said of the 59-year-old Woodworth. “You’d think somebody coaching all this time is set in his ways, and he’s not. He evolves with the personnel we have. He’s still always trying to learn and grow as a coach. He plays to the players’ strengths and, to me, he’s just the best coach around.”
“This does make me think about how it started,” Woodworth said of the field being named for him. “It was humble beginnings, but our community has been so supportive. They’ve raised money over the years to do this and raised money to do that and, wow, what an unbelievable place to work as a teacher and coach, and to live. And what a tribute from our community. I’m overwhelmed with it.”