After consecutive back-to-back 1-9 seasons, Fort Recovery enters tonight's game with St. Henry with a 5-4 record and in search of the school's second winning season ever. The Indians went 6-4 in their first varsity season (1994) playing an independent schedule. Since joining the MAC in 1995, Fort Recovery's best finish is 4-6.
Niekamp, who played for the Indians in 1999, came home to take over the football program three years ago. Fresh with dreams of turning things around, Niekamp’s confidence and dreams were shaken by two consecutive 1-9 seasons.
But now just one year removed from a one win season, the Indians head into week 10 against St. Henry with a shot at both a winning season and the playoffs.
The Indians have five wins and are looking to tie the school record of six, which came the year prior to joining the MAC.
“1994 was our first year with a varsity football schedule,” noted Niekamp “We played an independent schedule and traveled around the state. Since joining the MAC our best record was 4-6.”
Niekamp’s first goal; immunize the Indian program from the disease caused by years of losing records.
“I just knew growing up here we had the kids that could support football and it was just a matter of teaching them how to win,” Niekamp said. “It has taken sometime to turn it around.”
Prior to the start of the 2007 season the rumblings emanated that this year the Indians would not be a guaranteed win. The rumors transferred into fact when Niekamp took his team to Versailles H.B. Hole Field and walked out with a 33-20 victory. Now the MAC was standing up and taking notice that Ft. Recovery was a team on the move.
“Beating Versailles was just tremendous. My first year here we went into Hole Field and were beaten 62-0,” Niekamp said. “This year we played a solid game and did everything we wanted to do.”
The victory over Versailles was the infusion of confidence Niekamp had been in search of. The following week Ft. Recovery came within two points of knocking off Anna. Even though it was an “L” in the right-hand column, the Indians no longer questioned if they could win.
If the Versailles win was big, a 29-28 win over Delphos St. Johns had people muttering in amazement.
Niekamp said “a lot of luck” played a part in the victory over the Blue Jays.
Luck or not, it accomplished something that even the most loyal Indian fan darned not dream – victories over Versailles and DSJ in the same season.
The wins have spread an excitement for Friday nights normally reserved for the winter season.
“It has been very exciting. When I go somewhere people are asking me about Friday nights,” Niekamp said. “The stands are full and it is just really great to see that.”
With a team of young players this season could just be the start of something special, but the Indians are hoping for more in 2007 and that starts with St. Henry.
A win tonight over St. Henry would keep the Indians playoffs hopes alive, but more importantly it would continue to build on what is already a championship season in the Fort.
“Beating St. Henry would be fantastic and would really carry over to next season,” Niekamp said. “They are a great program with a lot of state titles and a close rival.”
A victory would also give Ft. Recovery a 6-4 season, but perhaps more importantly their first winning season since joining the MAC. It will require a miracle for the Indians to qualify for the D-VI playoffs.
But, then again when the season started people would have said the same thing about beating Versailles, DSJ and St. Henry. In the world of the great unknown, anything can happen.