FORSYTH, Mo. -- A school in the Ozarks will play football for the first time this season in nearly 70 years.
The blue and white of the Forsyth Panthers will be back on the gridiron, thanks to the overwhelming support of YMCA and Pop Warner leagues in the past, coaches say.
"We've had a lot of great people coming through, trying to lift our kids up, trying to teach them how to get this started," says assistant coach Jim Voliva.
Voliva says in addition to giving the community a new team to cheer for, football will also give some students a chance to be part of something greater than themselves.
"Because there's a lot of kids that don't fit into other places," says Voliva. "And that's exciting for those kids and our whole school."
"All the hallways are exciting, everybody's just like football, football, football," says eighth grade quarterback hopeful, Dawson Deroo.
While starting a program from scratch has it’s challenges, with some students having never played football, Deroo seemed right at home.
"We've been pushing for this since I was in third grade... It's here and it's the best feeling ever," says Deroo.
"It's kind of nervous, coming out here, working with everybody, seeing your coaches watching you," says eighth grader, and running back hopeful, Johnny Mayhew.
Only seventh and eighth graders will play the first year, freshman will join the program in 2015, and a varsity team will be added in the near future
"I've get to set all the records," says Mayhew says with a smile. "I get to set all the records."
Of the some 50 or so students that joined the first practice freshmen were present, despite not being able to play in 2014.
While the potential to play under the Friday night lights is enough for some, coach Voliva says it’s the lessons learned at practice that will last.
"Our goal as a coaching staff is to teach these kids how to be great young men and a young lady, we've got a young lady out this year, and it's exciting to watch those kids grow," says Voliva.
"Not everyone is going to be a pro athlete," says the assistant coach. "But everyone is going to grow up to be an adult."
Voliva says the first game for the seventh and eighth graders will be September 9.
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