‘From boys to men’
Early teams competing in youth football league
EARLY — In Early High School’s Big Room Tuesday night, the quarterback rolled to his left, preparing to pass — running for his life as fifth-grade and sixth-grade defensive players chased him hard.
The team’s head coach, Justin Robinson, was playing the role of quarterback as he and other coaches ran practice drills for the Early Pee Wee team.
The team is part of the West Texas Rural Youth Football League, which consists of teams from Early, Coleman, Hawley, Merkel, Jim Ned and Clyde.
There are four divisions in the league:
• Flag, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, head coach Kris Finlayson
• Mighty Mights, first and second grades, head coach Rusty Tupin
• Junior Pee Wee, third and fourth grades, head coach Richard Butler
• Pee Wee, fifth and sixth grades, head coach Justin Robinson
The league has completed its regular season, and after a brief playoff season, the league’s Super Bowl games will be played Nov. 14 at Longhorn Stadium in Early.
The Pee Wee team, which is undefeated, has already qualified for the Super Bowl.
While the league has existed for about 15 years, this is Early’s third year to be part of it, league president Zac Melton said.
Melton, who helped coach an Early team for the previous two years, stepped away from coaching this year to run the league.
“We can go ahead and get these boys together and start letting them play now, competing against one another and start building long-lasting friendships with people from other communities — and make football more exciting for them as they grow up,” Melton said.
It’s been an “amazing feeling” to see the young players put in the work and have it pay off “in a big way,” Melton said. “No better feeling. I have coached so many of these young men for a long time and have been blessed with many good memories.
“This is so big for our boys, for the sixth-graders that are about to go into junior high. They helped us build this and here we are competing at the highest level. I have watched them grow into leaders and transform from boys to men. The lessons they have learned and shared with the young boys is bigger than any championship.”
Additional photos are on page B2 in today's edition.