PITTSBURG — While area schools are preparing for football season, the New Hope Bulldogs are gearing up to play to their first football game of the year. 

The New Hope Bulldogs, have been preparing for weeks for tag football in the Special Olympics regionals on Sunday in Springfield, Missouri.. The team has woken up early each morning to prepare the equipment and begin stretching. 

Bulldogs team member Ashley Spriggs has been participating in Special Olympics flag football for the past several years. 

“I have to focus on the game and I have to pay attention to what the coach is saying and have fun and good attitude,” she said. 

One of Spriggs’ team members, Mike Bailey, also went last year. Bailey said he is “excited and ready to go” and said he’s been staying out of trouble and has had good behavior — each teammate must have good behavior to participate in the sporting event. Above all, he’s most excited about “hanging out with teammates and getting out of the house,” he said. 

Their coach, Aaron Thompson, said the Bulldogs went to York, Nebraska, last year and took home second place. This year, they are taking what they needed to improve on and refining what they know to shoot for number one. 

“We have a lot of talented athletes,” Thompson said. 

Local Program Coordinator Sam Overman and Thompson said being able to have the equipment to practice sports and to travel to the sporting events is thanks to the support from the community. The program itself has grown in the last several years and the support has helped pay for entry fees, transportation, cleats and more. 

“We are not able to grow and travel without the donation and fundraising that people in the community give to us,” Overman said. “We are always very appreciative of the fundraisers and donations we get.” 

In previous years, Spriggs and other Special Olympics Bulldogs had the opportunity to travel to Austria for the Special Olympics Winter Games where she and the others received medals for snowshoeing and relays. 

Once the team gets back next week, they will go back to practice, except this time they will practice softball. 

“We are pretty busy, we love team sports and our guys love it too,” Overman said, adding “powerlifting is coming up too.”