Moving their family to the Center Grove School Corporation proved to be an eye-opening experience for Greg and Jennifer Coy nine years ago.
With the oldest of their four sons, Nathaniel, about to enter fifth grade, the couple was introduced to the community’s involvement in building a successful bantam football program.
Greg, now a member of the Board of Directors of the Center Grove Bantam Football League, admits to initially thinking football was being taken a little too seriously at the lower grades.
After all, these were elementary-aged children blocking, running and tackling.
Yet like many other families who have had multiple children go through the league, the Coys in time gained a clearer perspective.
“When you come out to the fields for the first time, some people might think they do take it too seriously,” said Greg, whose youngest son, 10-year-old Noah, is the last of the Coy brothers to be part of the league.
“As a family, the biggest thing we’ve gained is a sense of community. The friendships we’ve been able to develop. But it’s also making sure the kids enjoy the atmosphere. That’s what makes it special.”
The Coys are one of the families which have had multiple children go through the Center Grove Bantam League.
Surnames common to anyone within earshot of one of the bantam complex’s public address announcers in recent years include Hohlt, Dietel, Boswell, Mappes and Pence.
There are others.
Four of Aaron and Jennifer Hohlt’s five sons have gone through the league. The oldest, Jackson, is a 2016 Center Grove High School graduate who is now in his first year at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
Eli Hohlt, a sixth-grader, is experiencing his final season of competition in the Center Grove Bantam Football League.
This is the 13th consecutive season the family has a player in bantam.
And the last.
Though bantam football at Center Grove has existed since the 1960s, Aaron Hohlt credits Trojans varsity coach Eric Moore for creating uniformity throughout upon his arrival in 1999.
Bantam league players often gain motivation by the encouragement of Center Grove’s high school players, their idols. The bantam players follow the same offensive and defensive blueprints — albeit scaled-down versions.
Even the numbers offered each season in bantam are those of selected seniors from that year’s varsity squad.
As an example, the Tar Heels’ Zackary Hoffman, a player in the fifth- and sixth-grade league, wore the same No. 30 as senior running back Titus McCoy.
“It’s not uncommon for Eric to be at a bantam league practice showing kids how to run a play this way or to block this way. That, to me, is a true feeder system,” Aaron Hohlt said. “Our head coach has ownership over it.
“We run Center Grove’s offense and we run the base defense. … It is the truest feeder system out there. And the best.”
Jim Boswell is also on the Board of Directors handling sponsorships.
His twin sons, Brett and Brad, are juniors on the Trojans high school squad and bantam league alums; youngest son Brody, 11, is part of the league now.
“It’s taught all three of our boys teamwork and how to work with others, along with respect and mental and physical toughness,” Jim Boswell said.
The Coys learned long ago to embrace each and every Saturday during the bantam season.
“What we used to do when we had three boys playing is pack up the car and go from field to field,” Greg Coy said. “It became kind of a family thing for us.”
Asked if he was going to miss bantam once Noah is too old to play, Coy’s response mirrored that of so many parents, past and present.
“I already do,” he said.