OYFL campers experience Friday Night Lights

Ottumwa High School head football coach Brian Goodvin instructs campers, as well as current OHS Bulldog players, during last Friday's Ottumwa Youth Football League camp held under the lights for the first time at Schafer Stadium in Ottumwa.

OTTUMWA — Brian Goodvin just wanted to give Ottumwa youth football players a taste of what it feels like to play under the lights at Schafer Stadium.

Over 70 students from grades 5-8 took to the gridiron last Friday night as Ottumwa youth and middle school players took part in a unique football camp, held in the same prime time setting the Ottumwa High School football team will experience nine times over the course of the next three months. Goodvin is hopeful the 70-plus youth football campers will want more than just a taste of being under the Friday Night Lights.

"The next time, aside from this camp, that these players will get to experience playing at Schafer Stadium on a Friday night will hopefully be as a member of the Ottumwa High School football program," Goodvin said. "Our goal with the youth and middle school programs is to get the kids prepared to play football at the high school level. We want the kids to have something to strive for."

Unlike previous years, the Ottumwa Youth Football League season will not end with a championship night at Schafer Stadium. The season will feature five games for each team over the course of five weeks with the first set of games being played on Sunday, Sept. 22, at 1 p.m.

After the five weeks have concluded, the teams with the best record in their respective divisions will be named 2019 Ottumwa Youth Football League champions.

"Last year, the youth kids played almost more football than the high school kids," Goodvin said. "We don't want to burn kids out on football. We want the kids to want to play more football. As they continue through the program, they'll get more football as they get older. Every year, it just kind of builds on the opportunities the kids get to be a part of."

Goodvin has seen the highs and lows of Ottumwa football from various viewpoints. The 1987 Ottumwa graduate has been a Bulldog football coach for most of the past two decades, even seeing his own son Alex grow up playing the game culminating as the senior starting quarterback at OHS in the 2012 season.

Brian Goodvin kicked off his first official week of practice on Monday as the new head coach of the Ottumwa Bulldogs. Besides setting his sights on building a team that kind find success on the field this season, Goodvin will be involved with the Ottumwa Youth Football League hoping to build a successful program that takes the field over many seasons to come.

"From the youth level on up, the kids are going to be running Bulldog football and learning our system all the way through," Goodvin said. "We've got some really good youth coaches and some really good junior high coaches. Coach (Doug) McAntire has done a great job with the youth program. He's also going to be a part of our seventh-grade coaching staff.

"Everyone has done a great job of getting word out. Our summer program at Evans Middle School where we do some strength and conditioning introduction had about 40-50 kids, which is the best participation we've had for that in some time." 

On the field, Ottumwa is looking to overcome a tough stretch for the high school program. The Bulldogs have won just two varsity games over the past three seasons, enduring a 19-game losing streak that finally ended with last year's season-opening win over Burlington.

The Bulldogs will head to Burlington for Goodvin's first game as a varsity head coach on Friday, Aug. 30. Challenging foes await Ottumwa once again this year with road trips to Indianola, Newton and Waukee and home dates with Johnston, Marshalltown and Des Moines East.

Of course, being in Class 4A, Ottumwa will always find challenging foes awaiting them year in and year out. Goodvin isn't afraid to counter the major powerhouse programs across the state with a brand of Bulldog football that is developed from the ground up.

"If you've read anything from around the state with the re-classification push right now and everybody whining a little bit about having to play teams like Valley, Dowling and the suburban schools from Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, being a rural school does kind of put you at a disadvantage," Goodvin said. "You've got kids at some of those bigger schools that are going to camps that are more position specific from the time they're 8-years-old. There's definitely some social-economic differences, but I believe that if we can get our kids bought in as early as we can, we should be able to close that gap and get those numbers to roll right on through.

"We've got the ball rolling. We just have to keep that momentum going."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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