RUSSELLVILLE — There will be a few more Friday night lights shining on the gridiron in Brown County this fall.
The Southern Buckeye Youth Football League will step up into the high school ranks next season, sponsoring a club team consisting of players from the Russleville and Georgetown areas.
Head coach Chris Tomlin first pitched the idea of a high school team to the Eastern Brown school board, but they weren’t interested. However, the interest among players and other people in the community remained, so Tomlin and the rest of the league decided to sponsor the team regardless. Now, the organization has one major problem they have to contend with: fundraising.
“When you’re an independent organization like this, it’s the money,” Tomlin said. “You have to have Ohio-state regulated high school football equipment, you cannot use any kind of youth equipment. I have to get new helmets, new shoulder pads and of course we’re going to be getting new uniforms for them.”
The league has received some donations already. Tomlin Interiors donated to cover the cost of shoulder pads for the team, but the squad still has to raise money to cover the cost of helmets and jerseys. A quarter auction will be held at the Southern Hills Career and Technical Center in March. The league has also received donations from Brown County Motors, Dr. Charles McKinley, Ripley Steel and former NBA player Brian Grant, who attended Georgetown High School.
Tomlin said he and the rest of the organization are doing anything and everything they can to raise money in time to hold football this season, especially given the surprisingly high turnout for sign-ups last week.
“Any avenue we can think of, we’re trying to do so we can have football for these boys,” Tomlin said. “We had our first sign-up last Saturday and I had 24 high school boys show up. Ninety-nine percent of those boys were Eastern boys, so that was pretty amazing. We’ve never had that kind of turnout at our first sign-up.”
While the team may not necessarily have the support of the school, they aren’t the first team in the area to go the club football route.
“We’re a club team, so we’re not backed by the school,” Tomlin said. “West Union is the same, they’re not backed by the school. North Adams isn’t backed by their school.”
The team will play in the Southern Ohio Independent League. In addition to the Dragons and Devils, the league consists of Middletown Christian and Landmark Christian.
For more information, contact the league on its Facebook page, Southern Buckeye Youth Football. The page will act as a de facto website for the team, as Tomlin says the squad will post updates on schedules and other events on the page.
“All our information on fundraisers and when we’re having sign-ups and when the games are will be on there,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin is excited for the season to start and said any help the community can give is greatly appreciated.
“It’s for sure happening,” Tomlin said. “All games are going to be on Friday nights. We will have Friday night football here in the area. Any support, donation, anything we would surely appreciate. There’s enough interest that it’s gong to be here. They boys are excited and I’m excited for the boys. I’m looking forward to it.”
The next round of sign-ups for the team will be held on Saturday, March 19 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lake Waynoka Lodge.