By Ms. Marie Berberea (TRADOC)November 9, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- Some of Fort Sill's youngest men put on their uniforms and went to work. Clocking more hours in football practice than any other team in their age category, the Fort Sill Knights took the 2012 Pee Wee State Champions title.
"I think what helped us the most, honestly, is the kids are military dependents. They come in with a certain level of discipline and work ethic that you might not get in other kids," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Jones, defensive and special teams coach.
The boys ages 8-11 practiced three times a week for one and a half to two hours from August until their final game last weekend. They went over the fundamentals of football and Jones said the coaches made sure to teach the players every position so they would know how those roles intertwined on the field.
"Our defense up until this Saturday allowed 33 points for the entire year out of seven games. Our defense is stellar," said Jones.
With all active-duty military coaches and one coach who is a military dependent, the Knights went up against the Arlington Thunders Nov. 3 in Dallas, to fight for the Southwest Regional Championship title. They lost, 35-0, but Jones said it was a lesson they will carry into their next season.
"We learned we never quit, no matter what the opposition brings. You could see after the first quarter our kids were pretty down, but no matter what happened our coaches refused to let them stay in that place," said Jones.
Jones said although that was the last obstacle the team faced, it was not the first.
"We've had some extra things we've had to overcome that some of these other teams wouldn't have to deal with. There are several players on our team whose dad recently deployed, so we took it upon ourselves as coaches to step in and fill that fatherly role to the best of our ability and just talk to the kids. We try to adjust our practices based on what's going on with them because it's difficult," said Jones. "I've personally deployed five times, so I have an idea of what it's like for my wife and my kids. It's not easy, bottom line."
The team is still fairly green in its establishment, but the Knights made up for their lack of experience in combined effort.
"All 23 players are MVPs. Everybody on the team knows what they did, what they contributed," said Jones. "When you can have players who can kind of serve as coaches on the field that gives you an additional advantage. We do have some players on both sides of the ball that definitely serve in that capacity."
He said it wasn't just the players themselves who made it a great season, but also the parents who worked hard to support the children and help from those in the Lawton-Fort Sill community who donated money so they could compete.
Jones said the team acted as a family and the coach, Chief Warrant Officer Jason Jolicoeur, Marine Detachment, and his wife, Amy, sacrificed many hours to make sure they had everything ready from hygienic uniforms to sowing patches so they would be within regulations to compete.
"They do a lot of stuff behind the scenes. They do it so seamlessly, and they have two kids of their own who play on the team. That's a lot to ask because there's 23 players total. They've got a busy schedule, but they're very committed," said Jones.
Jones said he hopes the team moves into the next season with the same kind of support. He also thanked the commissioner and president of Pop Warner Football for the state of Oklahoma for creating a standard of play.
Next season the coaches are looking to expand into the following age divisions: Tiny-mite: ages 5-7 (35-75 pounds); Mitey-mite: ages 7-9 (45-90 pounds.); Jr. Pee-wee: ages 8-10 (60-105 pounds) or 8-11 (60-85 pounds if they are older/lighter).
Any interested parents can find more information at the Fort Sill Knights Facebook page www.facebook.com/#!/FortSillKnightsPopWarnerFootball.