OTTUMWA — For someone like Zach Pfantz, the only difference between "Meet The Bulldogs" and Christmas Day is the much warmer weather surrounding Schafer Stadium.
The colors are certainly similar with the Bulldogs taking the field clad in red and white. For Pfantz, the excitement of that first day on the gridiron is similar to that of his kids on the morning of Dec. 25.
“All day long I’ve been excited,” Pfantz said. “It’s like the real start of the season is here.”
As he found out when he arrived at Ottumwa High School on Friday, he wasn’t the only one excited for "Meet The Bulldogs" 2014.
“Just being in school, I could see all of our guys had a little extra bounce in their steps,” Pfantz said. “The guys were excited to play and get out here on the field. It’s Friday Night under the lights. You can’t beat it.”
Once on the field, the fans saw exactly what the 2014 version of the Ottumwa football team will look like. According to Pfantz, the Bulldogs brought one of their most balanced teams ever out to Schafer Stadium for the annual preseason intrasquad scrimmage.
“I think in other years, we’ve had ‘Meet The Bulldogs’ we’ve had a really good offense going against a defense that didn’t challenge us as much or vice versa,” Pfantz said. “With all these new starters, we’ve tried this year to make sure by this point that we have our absolute best offense going against the absolute best defense.”
“We had starters going against starters. I think we needed that type of competitiveness because of how many new guys we’re breaking in this year.”
Papey Kruah delivered the first defensive highlight of the night, picking off a Shane Frazier pass before running it back 60 yards to the end zone. Alone the way, Kruah delivered a big hit absorbing a tackle near the sidelines before continuing on his way to a touchdown.
There were also some special teams highlights, including a nifty punt return by Andrew Altfillisch on the third play of the night. Isaiah Cox, the Bulldogs’ top star on offense last year, delivered the first touchdown at Schafer Stadium on a 41-yard touchdown run.
As a whole, however, the annual "Meet The Bulldogs" wasn’t about the big, explosive plays. It wasn’t about racking up big statistics or about putting a bunch of points on the board.
Those will come next week, hopefully, when Ottumwa opens the football season at home against Mount Pleasant. On Friday, the Bulldogs were just happy to get back under the lights after days and days of practicing on the field high above Schafer Stadium.
“It just felt great to get back under the lights again,” senior Sam Kramer said. “It didn’t feel quite like a regular Friday night, but it was definitely good practice for next week.”
Scott Jackson is the senior sports writer of the Ottumwa Courier and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org