Pahrump Valley Times

Pahrump youth football players test their skills at combine

In one corner, young kids leap as far as they can from a standing position while an adult notes the distance.

Across the field, others are lined up for a timed sprint.

Still more young athletes of varying ages are lifting, throwing, catching and doing agility drills.

Petrack Park was a hub of activity Saturday morning as the Pahrump Valley Junior Trojans welcomed roughly 120 young football players to their 2018 combine.

“I wanted to see what we had as far as the talent pool of the kids,” said Johnny O’Neal, president of Pahrump Youth Sports. “Get them out here and have some fun, but we get to see who’s our passers, who’s our kickers, who’s our strength guys. We got above and beyond what we were looking for.”

The players rotated among nine stations, receiving careful instructions on exactly what to do from the coaches at each one. Although there were stations for passing a football through tires, running a short pattern and catching a football and running through tires and around cones after a handoff, none of the other stations involved a football.

Athleticism was being measured, with the adults tallying up the results to help them figure out which players are best suited for which position.

It might sound like tedious work, but the kids showed enthusiasm throughout, especially the younger ones. The youngest age group included kids ages 4, 5 and 6.

“They’re a lot of fun at this age,” O’Neal said. “They’re a chaotic mess, but they’re a lot of fun.”

Some of the drills were more fun than others, of course, with frequent cheers coming from the bench press station, where others in a group counted the repetitions more loudly as the count increased.

“I think the bench press was a popular one,” O’Neal said. “We had never done that before, but it was good. We had some kids that put up some good weight.”

Signs of declining interest in football were hard to find Saturday, with being part of a team one of the big draws.

“It’s a great sport,” said second-year player Richie Oliver. “We have good team members and I like the teamwork.”

Oliver said he played running back last year, but “this year I’m playing flag.”

“The thing I like about football is we all work together,” said Ethan Hutchinson, 11. “We push ourselves, and we help our teammates.”

Hutchinson said he has played football for two years, not confined to one position.

“I was all over on defense and on the offensive line,” he said.

While O’Neal was happy with the turnout, he said he expects even more players in uniform before the season begins.

“We’re aiming for five tackle teams and six or seven flag,” he said. “We just have to see what the numbers look like. Our numbers are low right now because we just haven’t been able to get the word out there, but once school starts and everybody starts seeing their friends are playing, it always happens. We start filling rosters.”

O’Neal’s efforts are appreciated by another youth sports coach, John Walker, who has coached 120 teams, including 28 all-star baseball teams, over his 30-plus years in Pahrump.

“Johnny O’Neal is responsible for our youth football program,” said Walker. “He is our leader, our driving force. Without him, we have nothing. It takes an exceptional human being to step up, and he and his wife have stepped up in our community and made this football program possible. He took it over … and has taken it to the next level.

“The community needs to show their respect for the people who stand up for these kids, such as the people who organize Little League, people in soccer. Respect those people. Every once in a while, somebody go thank them, because they don’t get thanks. And it is amazing how much they don’t receive appreciation.”

Football practice begins Aug. 1, with the season scheduled to begin Sept. 1.

Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at trysinski@pvtimes.com On Twitter:@pvtimes