Youth Football

C.P. Junior Bulldogs Football League turning 60

2013-02-25T22:00:00Z 2013-02-26T00:52:05Z C.P. Junior Bulldogs Football League turning 60John Burbridge, (219) 933-3371

CROWN POINT | Someone should have told Ron Goodman that he had the rest of his life to work for a living.

"Maybe I was thinking more like an adult than like a kid," said Goodman, who as a big-target star receiver at Lake Central caught the attention of several major college programs.

Instead, Goodman spiked his promising football career in favor of entering an electrician apprentice program.

"Sure, I would have loved to play football some more, but I didn't consider myself that much of a student," Goodman said. "In high school, I had a decent (grade-point average), but if I went to college, I would have been doing it just to play football."

Goodman has no regrets in learning a trade that keeps him gainfully employed and has allowed him to branch out as a home builder.

"But if my son ever has the same opportunity to play college football, I'm going to encourage him to take advantage of it," Goodman said.

Goodman has since gotten back in the game as president of the Crown Point Junior Bulldogs Football League, which is heading for its 60th season.

Veteran coach and league treasurer Scott Shahbaz has been there for half that span.

"We've been growing every year," said Shahbaz, who anticipates more than 700 players ages 7-14 for the 2013 season. "And we don't turn away anyone because of their weight.

"Kids are much bigger these days. And the kids who are too big don't get to play in most places, or they moved up a 9-year-old to play with 12-year-olds. Kids here play in their own age group."

Though the Junior Bulldogs are more than a decade older than the Super Bowl, they remain one of the more unique youth football leagues in the country. With 12 teams in each age division -- 7-9, 9-10 and 12-13 (14 if still in eighth grade) -- the Junior Bulldogs are strictly in-house.

"All of our practices and games are right here," Shahbaz said of the two-field complex on North Street. "We play all our games on Saturdays. We consider Sundays as 'family days.'"

Or maybe even "NFL on television days."

Regardless, even Saturdays are family days for clans of multiple players.

"For a lot of town football programs, you may have an 11-year-old playing in Merrillville while his 9-year-old brother is playing in Newton County," Shahbaz said. "What game does mom and pop go to?"

Despite its age, the league has a new-car scent. Both of its lighted fields have installed field turf.

"It was expensive, but it has saved a lot of money, and us from a lot of back pain," Goodman said. "Before, not only did we have to mow it every week, but paint the lines."

None of the league's helmets are more than four years old. The league has purchased a sanitizer for its equipment, and has spanking-new washers and dryers for the uniforms.

The Junior Bulldogs' club house/garage where players register and get fitted for uniforms, where league officers hold meetings and social functions, and where all the uniforms, equipment, blocking sleds, tackling dummies, yard markers, field tractor, etc. are stored has more than doubled in size in recent years.

"Really, we're just building on what was already established," Goodman said of the league founded by John Mecklenburg and Jack Bixeman.

"And the White Family Foundation has helped a lot with their donations," Goodman said. "Without them as well as support from the Crown Point school system and the city itself, none of this could be possible."

Shahbaz says the league is taking a pro-active step in the area of football-induced concussions.

"We're working with Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers (of Crown Point), in pretesting players so we have a base to work from if we need to later test someone for a concussion," Shahbaz said. "And we're going have trainers present at every game."

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