Clay coaches praise Oregon youth football merger

J. Patrick Eaken

Because of the expansion of the football playoffs to 12 teams per region, high school teams will play their first game on August 20. 

That means coaches have to start getting their players ready to go in a hurry.

“We played our first seven-on-seven, so we are starting to get it cranked up pretty good,” said Clay coach John Galyas.

For Galyas, the challenge has been competing in the perennially tough Three Rivers Athletic Conference, and in 2023 it will not get any easier in the Northern Lakes League.

It means having a feeder program that can keep the game popular for youngsters and at the same time develop them as they rise towards the varsity.

This year, the City of Oregon recreation department is merging its youth program with one established by Maumee Bay Turf Center. 

The cooperation is being highly praised by Galyas and his staff. The coaches can now oversee all aspects of tackle football programs established for youths entering grades three through 12. Any youth registering must do so this week. 

“Really we are kind of getting the best of both worlds — the resources, certainly, of the Oregon Recreation Department and then the continued coaching from the Maumee Bay Turf program. We are blending them together, which for us, is a really good thing for football in the City of Oregon, that is for sure,” Galyas said.

“The fact that we are just one feeder program now is nice, for sure, and this is something that we have wanted to have at the high school since I became the head coach. It’s something that I’ve worked to try to bring the two groups together, and I guess the time was right and we were able to do it, so we are definitely excited about that,” Galyas continued.

Maumee Bay Turf had its program running for 12 years. The youth got to play on the former Cincinnati Bengals’ artificial field turf brought to Oregon from Paul Brown Stadium over a decade ago when co-owner Brad Morrison’s company installed new turf there.

This summer, Maumee Bay Turf has been installing high school fields along the I-75 corridor in Bowling Green, Ada, Liberty-Benton and Lima Bath. Morrison says his company has been too busy with construction projects to continue operating its own program, plus there are the liability issues, so the merger made sense. 

“It was fun. It was a good time,” Morrison said. “As heavily involved with the construction industry as we are now, our insurance carrier does not believe it is a good idea for us to be dabbling in football, so it is too much exposure for us. It was a good way to handle it — (coaches) Scott Schultz and Derek Besgrove did a fantastic thing and merged it with Oregon Rec.”

City of Oregon Recreation Program Coordinator Henry “Hank” Fox and Commissioner Tim Borton oversaw the merger.

Fox, now in his fourth year at the helm of the department, says both programs had good intentions, but merging them was vital.

“From a cursory glance, the relevance and potential impact it will have on the football community of Oregon as a whole is paramount,” said Fox.

“The history behind it is about 14 years ago there was a little fallout with part of the community with what they expected from the youth football program that was provided so they branched off and said they were going to do their own little thing,” Fox said. 

“That was when Maumee Bay Turf (league) was formed, so amidst that their efforts were commendable. They were trying to offer their kids a little higher end coaching experience and football experience, and ultimately were trying to form basically a travel-level football team. 

“The only problem with that is one, there are not many travel level leagues around here, so they would play in rec level leagues so the kids did not really get the challenge that they probably set out for. Secondly, it created divisiveness in the football community and culture of Oregon with half of the kids going one way and half of them going the other way, and ultimately, you want these kids growing up in a program together as brothers and developing together throughout the program,” Fox continued.

“So, we said, ‘Hey, we have got to address this, so we reached out to Brad Morrison and (youth director) Scott Schultz at Maumee Bay and John Galyas and (freshman coach) Joseph Kiss with Clay Eagles’ football, and of course Tim and I at the rec center and said, ‘What can we do to address this? There is no reason we can’t.’”

Fox said the first step was to create an Oregon youth football committee, which has now created a program for grades three and up. Joining the Clay, Oregon Rec, and Maumee Bay Turf coaches are the Fassett Middle School coaches.

“It is at all levels,” Galyas said. “The Clay coaches are involved with our coaches and they are providing them with knowledge and input, and playbooks that get more progressive with play schemes, familiarizing them with all the formations in the Clay Eagles offensive and defensive schemes so it is a more cohesive program ground zero.

“He (Galyas) is pretty excited about it. This is ultimately what he would want. We finally got the merger terms to be agreed upon.”

Registration is open at (click register tab) until July 15.





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