Story by Jon Dinan
The Fremont Red Dog Pee Wee Football seniors battled a tough competitor in the Sydney Warriors on a Sunday afternoon in October at Bjorkland Park in Fremont Center.
Although the Quad County Youth League showdown resulted in a runaway 22-0 victory in favor of the away team, the contest itself was not as one-sided as the final score projected.
The Red Dog defense, intercepted passes, forced fumbles and made big tackles. But the Dogs had difficulty generating offense against an equally stubborn Sydney defense.
Down 14-0 in the fourth quarter Fremont looked as though they were about to climb their way back into the game. Unfortunately for the home team, just the opposite transpired.
The Red Dogs had a first down just 15 yards from the Warrior endzone after a gorgeous 45-yard run by James DeAverio to begin the fourth quarter. On the ensuing play Sidney’s Liam Matthews intercepted a screen pass and promptly ran 65 yards in the other direction for the score, putting the game out of reach for the Red Dogs.
“I am very proud of our guys. Fremont is a tough, hard-hitting group, but we did a great job on both sides of the ball,” said Sydney head coach, Tom Hoskins.
“It’s been a tough year but we’re getting better,” said Fremont head coach Dennis Peters said after the game. “We play very hard in practice, but we don’t always bring the same intensity to the game. If we want to win we need to get faster. We’re a little slow right now.”
In the Fremont Youth Football Pee Wee League, up and coming football players are taught mostly about safety, sportsmanship, and the rules of the game.
Games are played on a field that is smaller than regulation size at 40 yards wide and 80 yards long, 20 yards shorter and 13 yards narrower than standard field dimensions.
Play is kept simple. Offense revolves mostly around run and screen pass plays, so defensive variations are also limited.
“Safety plays a significant role in what we teach our kids,” said Peters. “We instruct them how to block and hit properly so they don’t get hurt.”
Players are taught to use their shoulders and wrap their arms around opponents when tackling fundamentals that seem to be getting lost in college and the NFL.
“It’s a natural instinct for kids to dive in head first when making a tackle,” Peters revealed. “We try to break our players of that habit early on.”
The league is designed for beginners but it is also a feeder program for Sullivan West, which means some current Red Dogs will become future Bulldogs. During every Red Dog season, 11-year-old senior players prepare for the much faster and more physical modified level.
Current Red Dog backs Jake Leczynski and James DeAverio are two future Bulldog players. They will move up to the big field and play for the Sullivan West modified team next fall.
“We try to get our players ready for the next level by teaching them fundamental plays and formations such as T formations and power I’s,” said Peters. “As they progress, we try to spread them out more and play at a faster pace so they’re ready when they reach the modified level.