RUSSELLVILLE, Mo. — After a three-year process, football was welcomed to Russellville on Sept. 10.
Parents, students, staff and community members filled the stands in support of the players in the first game in program history.
"I'm excited, these kids have been working hard and they're ready to play this game," said David Stuckey, who is the head coach for the Russellville Indians seventh- and eighth-grade football team. "(Russellville's) already got a great sense of community pride here, that's one thing we didn't have to build."
The program will expand into junior varsity, then varsity in future years.
The first game was played on the field inside the school's track, which was built several years ago by a bond issue with the hope of a future use. The first football scoreboard was installed in July in anticipation of this initial season.
The school's band program also has been building up for the football season, adding percussion and polishing its marching capabilities.
After interest for a football team was brought to the former superintendent, a community group was asked to raise $30,000 to help offset district start-up costs.
Collin Steenbergen was part of the parent organization fighting for the program, and he celebrated Russellville's first football game with a tailgate. His son, Noah, is on the team.
"One of our main arguments for wanting to do (this) was it gave kids the opportunity to do something, not just the really, really athletic kids," Steenbergen said. "There's a spot on a football team for a big kid, there's a spot on a football team for a little, fast kid. It takes all kinds to put a team together, and it opens a lot of doors and opportunities for kids."
Despite some resistance to change, the program survived and brought large numbers last night. Student organizations, like art club, choir, band and cheer team, gathered to provide school spirit.
"It's a bold move for the community, for the school, for the participants that have supported it so diligently," alumna Linda Gordon said. "I'm excited for the school and the community and the students. I think it's a good thing."
The team struggled to score in the first quarter. The Indians' luck changed in the second quarter when Arjay Wilson scored the first touchdown in Russellville history, which was a proud moment for Wilson's family cheering in the stands.
Although some players have never played a sport, supporters are hopeful the activity will help grow the school revenue and breathe new life into the community.
The Indians were defeated by Lincoln Junior High Cardinals, 50-22. Nevertheless, the inaugural hometown crowd cheered as the clock ticked down to the final second.