RUSSELLVILLE – Western Brown, Bethel and Fayetteville High Schools all have established football programs. Sure, Fayetteville’s is fairly recent, but nonetheless all three local schools have teams at pretty much every level of play and have had them for some time.
That did not happen overnight, however. It took time and dedication to get the teams off the ground and that kind of process is underway again in Brown County.
The Southern Buckeye Youth football league began play three years ago and is already making an impact on the Pee-Wee football landscape in the area. Right out of the gate, the team faced tough challanges, according to junior high coach Chris Tomlin, who along with Richie Cox and Bob Hare brought football to the Russellville area.
“Two seasons ago, we got together and decided to try to get a football team in this community because they never had one,” Tomlin said. “We heard interest from the kids in the schools so we decided to go ahead and get started. We started getting equipment and finding a field. The Koehler family was gracious enough to let us use their field and it picked up from there. The first year we had 11 kids. We had to play them for junior varsity and varsity just to field a team.”
Because the league is not yet affiliated with any particular school, the players come from all over the area.
“It’s a club team and the school is not backing us so we have kids from Ripley and Georgetown,” Tomlin said. “Ninety percent of the kids are from the Eastern Brown area.”
There are three different levels of teams: the junior high team consists of seventh and eighth graders, the varsity team is fifth and sixth graders and the junior varsity team is made up of kids in first grade through fourth grade.
The team plays in the Southern Ohio Independent League (SOIL) with Manchester, West Union, North Adams and Middletown Christian. In league play, the teams have experienced various degrees of success this season, but all of them have a chance at a championship.
The junior varsity team earned the fourth and lowest seed in the playoff bracket, but that does not mean they had a down year.
“They’re the last seed but each game they have improved, which is what you want to see when they’re that age.” Tomlin said. “They’re so young that all you want to see is improvement from week-to-week. Ninety percent of the team has never played football or it’s their first year so you just want to see improvement each week and that’s what they’re doing.”
The team will face off against top-seeded Manchester at West Union’s Freedom Field on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 5 p.m. The varsity team, meanwhile, earned the top seed f0r their playoff run. Their game is also Oct. 17 at Freedom Field. It is scheduled to start at 8 p.m.
The junior high squad has also had success this season.
“[They’ve] only had one loss,” Tomlin said. “We’ve got West Union this Saturday and if we can win, we’ll win the Junior High Championship. It’s only our third season playing ball and it’s really unheard of to be already playing for a championship.”
Despite the program’s rapid growth, Tomlin knows there is still room to grow. He has goals for the future, one of which could come true sooner rather than later.
“[We want to] continue a strong pee-wee program and move it on up to the high school level,” Tomlin said. “I’m going to give that a shot next season. From what I’m hearing from the high school boys, I’ll have pleanty of players. It’s going to come down to donations. The field situation is already worked out, I have offers from a couple people for fields.”
If you’d like to help the team, email email@example.com for more information on how to get involved.