Tom Rysinki: Future football stars take field in Pahrump

The setting has some of the same feel of a Pahrump Valley High School football game.

It’s the same stadium, of course. The snack bar is open, under the watchful eye of Cindy Colucci, who acknowledges the workers don’t really need a watchful eye. But since cheerleaders aren’t her domain as they are at high school games, she has the time to offer drink suggestions and help keep things running smoothly.

And just like at high school games, her husband, Mike, is up in the press box, handling announcing chores. He even repeats his “Everyone up for kickoff” mantra from Friday nights, and quite a few people actually get up. But a lot of the kickoffs don’t go particularly far.

That’s because this is Saturday, not Friday night, and the display going on down on the field is being put on by a younger variety of player, the kind still learning the fundamentals of a game that requires a great deal of learning.

This is National Youth Sports Nevada tackle football, one of several sports — basketball, baseball, flag football, cheerleading, volleyball and soccer listed on its website — the organization administers.

Johnny O’Neal, president of Pahrump Youth Sports and one of those people every town needs to keep these kinds of operations going (Pahrump is lucky enough to have several), said that there were plans to field five teams in tackle football, but when the deadline for registration came, there just were not enough players to field 7U and 14U tackle teams.

“We were able to put the 7U kids on the 9U team,” O’Neal explained. “There were seven of them. We turned the 14U tackle team into a 14U flag team. There are 10 kids on that team, and they are called Trojan War.”

There are four other flag football teams: Trojan Shield includes five 10U players, Trojan Horse features eight players in the 8U division, and there are two 6U teams, Trojan Spear and Trojan Sword, each with 12 players, O’Neal said. Fewer players are needed to field a flag team compared to a tackle team.

But on Saturday, it was tackle football at the high school’s Trojan Field, as the 9U Junior Trojans, the 11U Junior Trojans and the 13U Warriors took the field. A total of 67 players participate on those three teams.

O’Neal was everywhere. One minute he’s being called from the press box, the next he’s zooming around on a golf cart bringing fresh water to the visiting bench. He’s also incredibly helpful and quick to answer even the most insignificant questions, but that’s not particularly germane to the story.

On this Saturday, the Pahrump kids won the middle of the three games, as Zachary Wilkerson rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown for the 13U Pahrump Valley Warriors in a 20-6 win over the Liberty Patriots. Wilkerson raced 72 yards for the Warriors’ first touchdown, while Jose Mendoza scored the second on a 30-yard run and Maurice Murray went 29 yards for the third score.

Murray finished with 72 yards rushing for an offense that racked up 227 yards on the ground. Defensively, Aiden McClard, LJ Bechard and Tristan Church each recovered a fumble for the Warriors (3-1).

The Warriors were the only Pahrump team to score, as the 9U Junior Trojans lost 30-0 to the Liberty Patriots to fall to 1-3, while the 11U Junior Trojans are also 1-3 after a 19-0 loss to TMT Elite.

But the results didn’t seem to get anybody down. Parents and others in the stands came prepared, bringing their own shade, and were enthusiastic about every positive play. So were the players, who were quick to congratulate teammates for a good play regardless of the score. And the cheerleaders had an answer for every situation, even an opponent’s touchdown.

“That’s OK. That’s all right. Stay out there and fight, fight, fight.”

Or something like that. It’s not always easy to make out words when a group is chanting them. But the point is that was more or less the spirit of the day. Sure, the score matters. You couldn’t always see it because of the bright sunshine bathing it, but the scoreboard was on for a reason. But getting young kids to play football and learn the game the right way matters more to O’Neal and all of the coaches.

Not that the real world doesn’t intrude. Snapping photographs of the cheerleaders in between taking pictures of the football game will draw an inquiring eye asking for proper identification. Apparently somebody recently was taking pictures of the young girls for no reason, or at least not a good one. Sad, but that’s the world we’re living in these days.

But the cool thing for the kids is that all of the trappings of an important contest are there. The national anthem played, the captains went out for the coin toss, every play was announced from the press box and the snack bar was open.

Mike Colucci occasionally would encourage those in attendance to try the hot pretzels or freshly popped popcorn. (The popcorn was pretty good, too.) Actually, that was one difference from Friday night football. Since it was not a school-sponsored event, Colucci didn’t have to read the piece saying that smoking is banned on school property because Pahrump Valley supports a healthy lifestyle, then immediately proceed to talk about the hamburgers and hot dogs for sale at the snack bar.

So it’s not exactly like Friday night. But on a sunny Saturday when an active breeze helped everyone tolerate temperatures better suited to baseball, it was a pretty good scene.

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

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