Anxious Pee-wee Players Kick Off Football Season With Jamboree
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer
All the signs were there that each of the young players on the football field were in a real game for the first time in their lives.
During the pee-wee league game between the Walker/Ford Rattlers and the Country Club Panthers some appeared to be wandering in the midst of the action. Others were overcome by eagerness, rushing onto the field to give their team more than 11 on the field at a time.
“Sometimes they are so anxious to get on the field that they get confused,” said Roscoe Turnquest, head coach of the Rattlers. “They might play offense and they are out there with the defense. But they settled down after a few minutes. We understand the butterflies were flying today.”
The exhibition matchup between players, whose ages range from 8 to 10, was one of the showcase contests that highlighted the start of the youth football season. The jamboree also featured games for other age groups in a carnival-like setting at Messer Field, where hundreds of parents came out to see their children don uniforms for the first time.
Some teams even had their own cheerleading squads on the sidelines.
The event kicked off the 59th season for the league run by the Tallahassee Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Affairs Department.
On a field adjacent to where the games were being played, organizers of the NFL-sponsored punt, pass, kick completion waited for young boys and girls to give their best shot at each of the football disciplines.
But it was certainly the games that took center stage last Saturday morning.
Coaches did all they could to make the best of the dress rehearsal for the short season that will culminate with an age division championship. They encouraged their players with a tap on the helmet or a pep talk.
“Everybody gets scared,” said Rattlers defensive coordinator Maurice Bonds, resting his forehead on the top of one of his players’ helmet. “What makes you great is when you overcome your fears. Overcome those fears, baby.”
The teams represent communities around the city. They’ve been preparing to kickoff the season for several weeks.
“We like what we’ve seen but we have to work on some basic fundamentals again, mostly tackling,” said Carlin Towels, an assistant coach for the Panthers. “For the most part, we were pleased.”
The Rattlers got a 21-13 victory, but it wasn’t all about the scores. Coaches wanted to see how well their players understands systems and schemes. Parents just wanted to see their children playing in a football uniform.
For grandparents like Ronald and Janie Sands, making the trip from Orlando wasn’t too much to see their grandson, Jacoby Wilson, play for the Rattlers.
“It’s just a natural thing for a grandparent,” Janie Sands said. “We wanted to show our family support for him. He is our youngest grandson so it’s worth it for us.”
Wilson’s grandfather, himself a former football player at Bethune-Cookman University, even took some time to coach up his grandson before the game.
“The kids at this age are like a sponge so whenever you teach them they absorb it,” Sands said. “It carries on each year as they continue to play. It’s a good thing to have it at this age.”
A few of them later took a shot in the kick, punt, pass competition. At stake was a chance to advance to another area round in Crawfordville. The top three winners will advance to another round in Panama City, with those winners moving on to the state final, that takes place in November at halftime during a Jacksonville Jaguars game.
Tonie Morgan, 11, was the only girl in the competition, which was a one-and-done format. Morgan wasn’t pleased with her performance, but she is looking forward to the next round.
“I want to do it again,” said Morgan, who previously advanced to the national level. “I don’t know how, but I’m going to work hard.”