By Mark Carpenter
The return of football to Adams County has been swift and for all those involved, it has been a case of “dream big” as the programs in West Union, Peebles, and North Adams have worked diligently to build their programs and beyond that, build places for their teams to play. West Union has their facilities at Freedom Field and in Seaman, the vision of North Adams football and its founder, Justin Schmitz, continues to grow.
“It is my dream to see our town become a town full of football culture instead of just being a small sub-culture,” says Schmitz. “I want to see our program become generational. I want to see our cheerleaders and marching bands make a comeback. I want to consistently develop determined young people full of grit who flat-out win. Eventually our young people are going to leave our program and will be leading families and companies- we have to teach them how to win before they begin those roles.”
Schmitz, who played high school football at Blanchester, began the process of reviving North Adams football after he and his wife relocated to Adams County in 2011, and it was a definite “leap of faith”.
“The idea to revive the football program at North Adams weighed pretty heavily on my heart that year,” he says. “In January of 2012 my wife and I had a conversation at the dinner table about the youth of Adams County. It seemed like everywhere we read, the statistics just kept getting worse and worse for our young people. I am a Christian and as a young man I was very blessed to have coaches as father figures who were men that had an unyielding belief in their message of faith and they instilled that message in me. In 2012, we stepped out in faith to begin the journey of reviving the NA football program.”
‘Our first year the task at hand looked daunting. We had no community support, no booster club, and no school affiliation. I remember going to sleep almost every night that year thinking, ‘Lord, you’re going to have to work a huge miracle’. In 2012, we had 32 kids participate in grades 3-6. The following year we added junior high football and doubled that number. The year after that we added high school football and ended up with 90 players that fall.”
North Adams football currently shares Freedom Field with West Union and Peebles, but that is set to change soon. With the assistance of some fundraising efforts, the NA program is in the process of constructing their own football stadium in Seaman.
“Out stadium project is progressing nicely,” says Schmitz. “We are completing excavation, seeding, adding electric services, and bringing in bleachers. We are working with an instructor and students from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering who will be designing and welding goal posts for the stadium this fall. We are hoping to have the field ready for play by the fall of 2019.”
Dreaming big has been the mantra for all of the county football programs since their rebirth, and the one dream they all share is the hope of someday being school-sanctioned programs.
“I would love to eventually be coaching a school-sanctioned North Adams football team,” adds Schmitz. “There is a lot that goes into coaching a football program the right way and we need the support of the school district to help ensure that we are putting out student athletes in the best possible position to build successful lives. Ultimately, that is why we are doing what we are doing.”
“Allowing us to lead school-sanctioned football programs would be great validation that the school district has seen all the hard work we have put in thus far. Superintendent Seas has experienced football culture at its finest, on and off the field. I think with him here, school-sanctioned football is definitely on the horizon.”