OU football perserveres through long pandemic season

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

The Ottawa University football coaches and players perservered through the longest season in program history.

The pandemic season went from preseason drills in August to the middle of April. In between Ottawa played 10 games (six during the fall and four in the spring).

Ottawa coach Kent Kessinger said this season was full of learning opportunities not only football, but life.

Ottawa University freshman quarterback Dakota Lynde looks down field for an open receiver. Lynde made his first start Saturday in the 28-14 loss to Southwestern.

“In April last year, we did not know if we would have school let alone a football season,” Kessinger said. “To have this opportunity to get these 10 games in is great. You teach a lot about adversity and how you overcome it.

“Football is the greatest life lesson sport that there is. A life is not going to throw you a lot of easy things. You have to learn how to battle from the low points. Even when you are on top, teams are trying to knock you off. You have to learn how to deal with picking yourself up. It says in the Bible, ‘Pity a man that does not have a brother there to be able to pick him up.’ That is one of the things that our whole team has been able to do is when we have been down, they have picked each other up. That is an amazing testament.”

The virus was always in the front of everything, Kessinger said.

“It is unprecedented the things we have had to work around,” he said. “From screening every day to screening before the games, screening before we got on the bus, screening when we got off the bus, to face masks and gators, to quarantine and to all that other stuff. The fact we made it through is a feat in itself. But to have some kids have pretty decent success out of this is a pretty good thing for us. Our coaching staff did a good job of keeping everybody going.”

Ottawa’s goals for this prolonged season were met head on.

“We looked at it as a two-pronged attack, win on Saturdays and prepare for the fall,” Kessinger said. “You can learn something every single day on how to play this game, how to understand the strategy of things.

“The No. 1 thing I will take out of it is they learned how to work. The harder they work the better we are going to be and we will be able to overcome obstacles. You can’t take things for granted. A lot of our freshmen did not have a [high school] graduation or a prom. You live each day to the fullest and you make yourself as good as you possibly can that day. Come back and do it again the next day. You put all these games together and when you do that you can have great success. Their hardwork, their effort, their ability to be together and count on each other, is something that is going to not only help them as a football team, but for the rest of their life.”

Ottawa finished the season at 5-5, playing two ranked teams to finish the season. Ottawa fell 28-14 to nationally-ranked Southwestern Saturday at AdventHealth field.

Ottawa ended the fall giving then No. 5 ranked Kansas Wesleyan a good battle.

“For a young team in a lot of respects, that bodes well for the future,” Kessinger said. “We start doing this again in a couple of months. It will be interesting to see how the spring games going this late will have on the fall season. You can tell why a football season doesn’t go eight months because it is a grind. It is so long and so demanding.”