Sports

Youth football targets support

In the wake of two consecutive state tournament appearances, the popularity of Oak Harbor High School football has reached epic proportions.

Not only have local adults caught Wildcat football fever, but it has spread to the youth, including 9-year-old Jordan Merrill, who one day dreams of leading the OHHS football team.

“I want to be the quarterback and I probably want to throw like nine touchdown passes,” he said.

Merrill, a member of Oak Harbor Youth Football League, no doubt shares similar visions of the other 174 kids preparing to start youth football practice on Monday.

Questions, however, of the acknowledgement toward the kids, who will eventually feed into the OHHS football program, have recently come about within the OHYFL.

“I would like to see some of the businesses get behind Oak Harbor Youth Football League,” Bomber coach Gerry Oliver said. “It gives the kids something to do, it keeps them out of trouble and I know that there are a lot of people who love Wildcat high school football and it starts here.”

Oliver’s major concerns start with the condition and availability of local fields. Currently there is one football game/practice field at Fort Nugent Park and one practice field at North Whidbey Middle School for seven OHYFL teams.

“The biggest complaint is the ground,” Oliver said referring to the North Whidbey field. “We go through maybe $4,000 worth of pants for the kids every year because of rocks, it’s hard and it’s not watered.”

OHYFL is also the only local youth sports league that has to share its fields with organizations, something that doesn’t sit well with first-year league president Mark Schroeder.

“We don’t have a place to play, but I see 50,000 soccer fields around,” he said.

The problem of field availability was initially thought to be solved with Phase Two of the Fort Nugent Park construction project that called for three practice fields and a game field just for football. Grant money, however, that was in the original plans for completion of the fields, was unavailable, according to Schroeder. The land is currently being cleared and grass will be seeded, but that’s as far as the project will go in regards to new football fields.

“Hank Nydam (Park director for the City of Oak Harbor) has told me after they do their part it’s going to take $100,000 to finish it up,” Schroeder said.

Nydam, who is out of town on vacation, was unable to comment on the specifics of the lack of grant money.

Aside from field conditions, other concerns in the OHYFL revolve around purchasing new equipment. In order to provide the proper safety for the kids, both Schroeder and Oliver agree new equipment is necessary, but not an asset the OHYFL possesses.

“We’ve got shoulder pads that are older than some of these kids,” Schroeder said.

To top things off, the league was supposed to have a scoreboard that was donated to them installed, but zoning laws revolving around the height will not allow for it to be erected. OHYFL now hopes they will be able to generate enough funds to purchase another scoreboard and put them on an equal plain with other teams in the North Cascades Youth Football League.

“Every stadium we go to, the majority of the kids have scoreboards,” Oliver said.

OHYFL will hold a car wash fundraiser Aug. 14 at K-Mart and plans on doing a skate-a-thon at a yet-to-be-determined date.

Those who might be interested in helping the OHYFL better its program can contact league president Mark Schroeder at 675-2830 or log on to the league Web site at www.eteamz.com/oakharborfootball.

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