Peewee Cougars Take Championship
The sixth grade Peewee Cougars emerged as the top team in the Northeast Arkansas Youth Football League with a 26-18 victory over Earle in the championship game Saturday at McCrory.
The spirited Rector team played a near-perfect game to upset an Earle team which had not lost a contest since entering the YFL as fourth graders.
"We could not have played a better game," coach Kirk Ford said of the Peewee Cougars. "Our offensive line did a great job blocking, our defense hit hard and made plays all game. It was a total team effort. Every kid that stepped on the field for us today did something to help us win the game. Everybody contributed."
The first half concluded with the teams tied at 12-12. Earle began the third quarter with possession, and looked to use their speed and power in the backfield to move the ball. A well-scouted hit by Jason Braman knocked the ball free from the Earle power back, allowing Braman to dive on the football and give Rector possession at Earle's 19-yard-line. A carry by Max Ford helped offset a sack and Rector penalty. Jacob McMillon caught a 24 yard touchdown pass from Parker Bucy with 3:20 left in the frame. Shannon Patterson ran in the conversion, as the Cougars went up 20-12.
Both teams were forced to punt on their next possessions, leaving Rector in front 20-12 going into the fourth.
Earle struggled to get back in the game, but Adam Romine killed a key drive for the Bullpups by intercepting a screen pass and returning the ball deep into Earle territory. Rector's drive would stall, but the effort left less than two minutes to play in the game.
Max Ford intercepted a halfback pass, bringing the ball back over 35 yards for the Rector touchdown with only three seconds on the clock. The try for two failed, but Rector was in firm control, 26-12.
Earle showed how dangerous they are with a 75 yard touchdown run in the final seconds to set the final tally in place.
Earle struck first in the contest, going in from 45 yards out on a screen pass with 5:08 left in the first quarter.
The Peewee Cougars answered on a 23 yard touchdown pass from Bucy to Patterson with 55 seconds left in the opening frame.
Rector forced Earle to turn the ball over on downs deep in Bullpup territory. The drive concluded three plays later with a 27 yard pass from Bucy to Patterson for the go-ahead touchdown with 8:03 left in the first half.
Earle scored at the end of the frame to tie the game at 12-12 heading into intermission.
The Peewee Cougars did an exceptional job against Earle's big halfback. Easily the largest player on the field, the back didn't have to contest with just one or two Cougar defenders each time he received the ball, but instead was picked apart by gang tackles like a pack of predators on the hunt.
A large Rector crowd was joined by fans from other schools anxious to see Earle's dominance come to an end. The mix made a perfect storm of support for the hard-working young Rector team. Team mom Becky Lindsey even joined the peewee cheerleaders, having promised to don her spirited attire if the team reached the final game for the second year in a row.
Rector finished the season with a 7-2 overall record. This was the first YFL championship for the program.
"All these kids worked their tails off," Kirk Ford said. "That's the bottom line. This group wanted to win and they went out every practice and every game and made it happen. I'm proud of all of them. This group has been a ton of fun to work with."
Members of the sixth grade championship team include Travis Slaughter, Zane Wright, Hayden Crow, Gage Parrish, Trace Sanders, Parker Bucy, Max Ford, Zach Gilbee, Jason Braman, Adam Romine, Fernando Guerrero, Konnor Boyd, Clayton Morgan, Lastin Lindsey, Kyle Akin, Shannon Patterson and Jacob McMillon.
Coaches for the peewee program were Kirk Ford, Todd Ford, Anthony Buck, Shawn Bucy, Nathan Sanders, Sam Isom, Gary Loveless and Jason McCluskey.