The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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Marty Howard’s youngest son, Nate, is a fourth-grader at Starr Elementary School.

Nate wanted to play a sport, and one of his options was playing pee-wee football in the Maumee Bay Turf Football League.

“He’s a big kid (5-foot-1, 140 pounds) and not super fast,” Marty said. “Flag football wouldn’t have been his best option.”

Nate played offensive guard for the Eagles as a third-grader last season. He wanted to play again this year, and he now plays both center and guard.

“I wish this was available when my 15-year-old, Andrew, who’s a sophomore at Clay, was that age,” Marty said. “He would have been benefitted greatly. I think if we get this base (football) knowledge and keep these kids together and go all the way up, I think it’s going to show dividends for Clay High School.”

Oregon Board of Education President P.J. Kapfhammer started the Maumee Bay Turf Football League three years ago, and he insisted it is not a profit-making venture for Maumee Bay Turf Center, which he co-owns. Each player pays a $200 fee to play for the Eagles, who have two teams for grades 3-4 and two teams for grades 5-6.

“We buy the best of everything,” Kapfhammer said. “Maumee Bay Turf loses money doing this. It’s not a profit-making thing. We buy them the best helmets, the best shoulder pads. I want my kids protected. We feel real good about the future of football in Oregon.”

Kapfhammer said the Maumee Bay Turf League was initially started as a feeder program for Clay.

“It’s a way of keeping kids together and feeling comfortable learning proper procedures,” he said. “These sixth-graders, they started with us as third-graders and I would put them up against any other sixth-graders. Our kids are taught the right way to play football, and I think you’ll see great things out of Clay football in the next few years because these kids have been taught the proper way.”

The Eagles began practice on Aug. 7 and play an eight-game schedule that lasts through mid-October. All four Eagles teams play four home games and four away games.

“We have 86 kids this year and that’s the most players we’ve ever had,” Kapfhammer said. “We had 36 kids the first year. We have 42 third- and fourth-graders, and that’s the most we’ve ever had. It’s like travel football. We play teams just like you do in high school. We play the different school districts like Otsego, Northwood, Lake, Whitmer.”

Marty Howard, who said he has coached several youth sports teams, said he is impressed with the way the Eagles’ program is organized.

“It is the most well-run youth organization I’ve been a part of, starting with their practice schedules” Howard said. “And, their equipment is top of the line. It’s just a very well run program.”

The Eagles play all of their games on Sundays, with home games held at the Oregon-based Maumee Bay Turf Center, which installs synthetic turf and grass fields at high school, college and professional stadiums.

Maumee Bay Turf recently installed new turf at Paul Brown Stadium, the home of the Cincinnti Bengals. The Bengals gave the used turf to Maumee Bay Turf, which installed the synthetic surface on its own field.

“They threw the old one away and we brought it home,” said Kapfhammer, a 1990 Clay graduate.

The Eagles have 10-12 coaches at every practice, and all four teams practice together on the same field.

“We put all the linemen together,” Kapfhammer said. “We break it down into units and we use proper procedure. We have a group of 10-12 coaches who come back every year, and we keep all of the kids on the same field. We put them all together when we run non-contact drills. Once we go contact, we’ll split them up.”

Said Howard, “A lot of the coaches don’t even have kids on the team. They’re doing it because they like the sport and they’re teaching these kids how to play football. Very few of them get hurt. These coaches teach them how to tackle correctly and they teach them things like cadences. I think it’s good for their self-esteem and teaches them discipline.”

The Eagles got to play at Bowling Green State University’s Doyt Perry Stadium last season, and they will play at Lake High School’s new field this season.

“You should have seen their eyes when they walked onto that field at BG,” Kapfhammer said, adding that the response from the players’ parents has been very supportive.

“We have a lot of support in the community,” he said. “The parents just love it. At practice you’ll see 80 parents out there watching our kids, sitting on lawn chairs and having fun. It’s just a great experience.”

 

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