Lansing Parks and Recreation squads brace for football playoff games
The Lansing High football team will lose 20 seniors to graduation this year, but anyone concerned about the future of the program need not worry.
In addition to strong junior varsity, freshman and middle school programs, more than 160 kids pack the fields at Lansing City Park every Monday through Thursday to practice with the Lansing Parks and Recreation youth football program. It's the same league where the current high school players first honed their skills.
"If you look at the high school, I think 90 percent of the kids on that team came from this league," said Bryan Pettis, commissioner for the city league.
Interest in the league has boomed in recent years. Now in its ninth year, more than 160 players make up 10 teams. There are four flag teams, three third- and fourth-grade tackle teams and three fifth- and sixth-grade tackle squads.
John Warner started the program in 1997, but Rich O'Donnell has taken over many of the everyday operations since then. The vision was to prepare the players for the high school level by having the youth teams run the same offensive schemes as the high school team.
"(O'Donnell) went to the high school, got their playbook and taught a lot of their plays, so when the kids get to that program they have an understanding of what is expected," Pettis said.
The coaches - most of whom are either parents or adults who simply want to give back to the community - don't go far beyond the basics.
"We teach them about sportsmanship and the fundamentals," said Mark Newby, assistant coach for the Lansing Big Red. "If they can't block, tackle, catch the ball, throw the ball, then we're not doing them any justice sending them up to the next level. All we really ask the kids to do is the fundamentals. We stay within what they can do, and it's worked out pretty well so far. It's been a good recipe."
The Big Red, a fifth- and sixth-grade team, has been the most successful team this season. It's 7-0 and hasn't allowed a touchdown all season. The squad is coached by O'Donnell and Newby. It previously was coached by John Hughes, who now is serving in Iraq.
The third- and fourth-grade Lansing Red is 6-0 and trying to complete its second straight undefeated season. The third- and fourth-grade Lansing White is 5-1. The fifth- and sixth-grade Lansing White is 3-4.
¢ Lansing White third- and fourth-grade vs. Pleasant Ridge. 10 a.m. at LMS.
¢ Lansing Red third- and fourth-grade vs. Leavenworth. 11:15 a.m. at LMS.
¢ Lansing Red fifth- and sixth-grade vs. Effingham. 12:30 p.m. at LMS.
¢ Flag football third- and first-place games at Lansing City Park.
¢ Third- and fourth-grade Super Bowl. 6:30 p.m. at LHS.
¢ Fifth- and sixth-grade Super Bowl. 8 p.m. at LHS.