THREE OAKS — The Red Arrow Raiders middle school football team made a successful debut on Sept. 14, shutting out Lawrence 40-0.
“Three kids on the starting offense and defense had never even played football before,” said head coach Adam Lijewski. “It was just fantastic.”
He said the New Buffalo-River Valley cooperative squad finished the game with no turnovers and minimal penalties.
The first touchdown of the season came early in the second quarter on an interception return of about 30 yards by August Johnson.
The first offensive score occurred a few moments later when Drew Bowen fired a scoring strike to Keith Foust.
The lead grew to 20-0 before half-time as Bowen and Colten Lijewski teamed up on a long TD pass play.
“This is by far the biggest team I’ve ever coached,” said Lijewski, adding that there are more than 20 players on the roster.
He previously has coached New Buffalo’s Middle School squad.
Adam Lijewski said he was always missing a few athletes that would have made for a complete team, something the merger has solved.
“Now we can have a full practice, we can literally scrimmage live offense, live defense, have subs, work the subs in and out. This is important, this is a big deal.”
In a couple of weeks of practice Lijewski said he’s already seen noticeable improvement.
“It’s going to be real fun this year,” he said.
While the team is pretty evenly divided between student-athletes from River Valley and New Buffalo, most are eighth-graders so the main challenge for next season looks to be recruitment.
Players on the Red Arrow Raiders opening-night roster are: Drew Bowen, Keith Foust, Makail Geigler, Hunter Gnodtke, Owen Gotcher, Travis James, August Johnson, Keegan Collis, Kyle Kirk, Parker Krohn, Colten Lijewski, Daniel Martinez, Brody Nikkel, Jayson Phelps, Sage Preece, Owen Schuler, Bowie Strieter, Keio Trimm, Mason Williams, Damarkus Wysinger and Gabriel Zarzecki.
Assistant Raiders coaches are Hunter Liberty and Conner Lijewski. Jennifer Taylor is the Middle School cheer coach.