The Importance of Friday Night Lights


Doniphan football team

Football may be making a comeback in Doniphan.

I am really happy to hear that.

I was never an athlete, but I remember well high school football in Doniphan. I graduated in 1978, and I always thought it was a mistake to let the football program go. But I’m sure they had good reasons at the time.

But….I also have some good reasons for bringing it back, because I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I think high school football is more important than it has ever been.


Because we are living in a fractured society. American society has become fractured by economics, and by politics, and by media, and by politicians. I have become very concerned about this, because I’ve seen that fracturing phenomena filtering down into every community, and into every school.

We need a unifier.

Football can be a unifier.


There are the obvious reasons. It’s a team sport, and it helps team members learn to work together towards a common goal. That is a skill too few young people are learning these days. It’s become a “Me” World instead of a “We” World.

School communities have always been fractured to an extent, because there have always been “cliques” and competing interests for attention and funding within schools. But I fear in this day in which kids are more immersed in their cell phones and instant messaging than they are in their own communities, they are becoming too self-absorbed. They need a reminder that we are a community, and communities work together, just like teams, to achieve common goals that are to the advantage of all.

Football, despite some assertions, is good for all.

In today’s world, many students are lacking adult role models in their lives. Sports, such as football, give them access to more appropriate adult role models. It gives them the opportunity to discover and expand their own leadership skills.

I read recently an opinion piece by John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens. He asserted his belief that high school football is more important than ever because it is, indeed, a metaphor of life.

He wrote, “Football is hard. It’s tough. It demands discipline. It teaches obedience. It builds character.”

I think that is not just true for the players, but for the hundreds of people who will file into a high school football stadium to see their team play. It’s true for the parents, and the Pep Club Members, and the Cheerleaders, and the Marching Band. It’s true for every kid from every divergent clique that will be there….to see “their” team play.

And, realistically, in the world of high school football, a school district without a football team does not enjoy the same stature as a district with a football team.

You’ve got to play to be a contender.

Bragging rights are real. They are important.

So….if you believe in your community, buy your “Brick”. Get your class together. Organize. Work.


How can you turn belief into action?

Help Gary Pennington reach his goal of $400,000 for a new Doniphan High School Football Stadium.

Pennington, who founded Doniphan Football, Inc., believes in the power of football. In making his presentation to the Doniphan School Board to sell them on the idea, he cited all the statistics that show football can actually lower a school district’s drop-out rate, and increase students’ academic performance.

To turn this dream into reality, the fundraising group has to raise $400,000 in commitments by May 19.

There are several elements of fundraising already underway. So far about $100,000 has been raised.

Literally, this Field of Dreams football stadium is being built brick by brick, with individuals and companies able to buy bricks for the stadium’s front gate, with each brick allowing three lines of characters for names of donors or in recognition or memory of loved ones. Those bricks are available for sale for $500 each. Brick benches can be purchased for $5,000, and can also be personalized. Eight foot tall pillars along both sides of the entrance can be purchased for $10,000 each. Stadium naming rights will go to the highest bidder, with a minimum bid of $50,000. All commitments can be paid immediately, or over four years with a signed commitment letter.

Anyone interested in donating or becoming involved can contact any of the Doniphan for Football, Inc., board members, who are Gary Pennington, Liesa Pennington, David Gettings, Danielle Reich Gettings, Barbie O’Neill Rogers, Dalton Pennington, Suzann Melton McKnight, Jennifer Snyder, Jim Hunt, David Swindle, David McKnight, or Rose Korte.

Fundraising buckets will also be placed around town, and tee shirts will be sold for $15 each.

Other possible fundraising projects include a fundraising concert featuring regional musicians.

If the money is raised by May 19, construction on the project could begin within the year.

Hey….high school football is part of our national culture and part of Ripley County’s Heritage.

Let’s give our students the opportunity to enjoy and continue that heritage for years to come.

It may sound like it’s just football, but it is so much more!

This isn’t just a football stadium on the line, this is Doniphan’s future on the line.

Football Stadium rendering by Stephanie Moreland

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