Out in the middle of Scott County, several miles outside the limits of the quaint county seat of Benton, Mo., you'll find Kelly High School.
It is a district of some 338 students, tiny when compared to districts in nearby Cape Girardeau and Jackson, but pretty typical of the small rural schools you'll find in Southeast Missouri.
Three years ago, the school board approved a football program in the Kelly district. In a story well crafted by reporter Jeff Breer, we learned that when Kelly goes about building a program, it takes that term quite literally.
Rather than hiring an outside firm to construct the field, community members and players took a hands-on approach. Some of the future players helped install the sprinkler system and put in the sod. Others in the community help install the light poles and hauled the dirt from the school's nearby baseball field. And the community helped raise money for other expenditures, such as a $9,000 scoreboard.
Once the field was built, Kelly began to build a football program.
The coach, Kenneth Riedinger, held what amounts to football study sessions so those interested in participating could start learning the language of the gridiron and overcome some of the intimidation of not growing up around the game.
Kelly's roster now competes against junior varsity teams, and will do so again next year before taking on a varsity schedule. So far, the team has won two games and lost one. Fans are showing up, far exceeding expectations.
School officials hope the football program will provide incentives for more students to join Kelly High. There are certain pockets within the county where students can choose between Kelly and other schools. Scott County is also noted for its Catholic heritage. Many Catholic families who send their children to the local parochial elementary school send their students to Notre Dame, which has put a big emphasis on its athletic facilities and programs, but does not have a football team.
So far, officials have confirmed about seven students have chosen Kelly because of the new football program.
We're not advocating that a football program should be a top factor when determining a child's academic future. But clearly football teams all over the country are a binding force of community pride. It looks like Kelly is going about its program in an admirable way, and we look forward to seeing how the team develops over the years.