Friday night lights. Those three words inspire every high school footballer to run faster, throw harder, and hold on tighter to the oblong shaped football in their hands. Friday night lights. Four quarters, fifteen minutes, two end zones. Friday night lights. A combination of two teams, two lines, two quarterbacks, and a desire to win. Friday night lights. Where a handshake in sportsmanship is shared between captains, a group of individuals creates a team, and a game is played with as much spirit as the players have drive.
Watching as the high school Tigers finish up their post-practice-cool-down, on the other end of the field is another group of Tigers; a younger one gearing up and taking the field for their practice that begins at 5:30. This group is the PeeWee Football team with their hearts set on one day taking the field under those same lights.
“We hope the program teaches them correct tackling skills, teamwork, and respect” says recreation director Shawn Leimser adding that they also emphasize schoolwork. Leimser refers to the PeeWee Football League created and ran by the recreation department for kid’s third grade through sixth.
For this young group of players, the Friday night lights are starting out as early Saturday mornings as they learn the game from the ground up and the importance of being a team, “We start with the basics of the high school playbook. Our expectations are to get our kids to learn the plays early so when they get into high school they should know all the plays and be able to work right into the system as freshmen” states Leimser.
PeeWee football, with this season, is four years old. The PeeWee season started at the end of August and will run through the second weekend in October. This year, they have a total of twenty-five kids out.
“Our Head Coach Mark Kupke got it [the program] started. We started it [the program] because other towns had been doing it for some time and we felt we were falling behind in our program” comments Leimser, adding, “The kids that were in our program the first year are now in the eighth grade. We hope the program has taught them hard work both on the field and in the classroom”.
The league deals primarily with Nebraska teams but will have both home and away games with a PeeWee Jamboree slated for September 10 in Lusk. “We have seen our kids improve greatly with their tackling skills and their involvement in a group sport. They are learning the concept of teamwork and working hard in school. We have a very good group of young kids in our program. Our fifth and sixth grade team has three to four years of experience in our program” says Leimser.
As Leimser has pointed out, the ultimate goal is transitioning from early Saturday morning kids on the field to athlete’s taking the field in those red Tiger jersey’s under the beams of the Friday night lights; but for this year, Leimser excitedly explains the goal will be, “To teach the third and fourth grade proper tackling technique and to start learning the playbook; for our fifth and sixth [grade] team to advance them in the playbook and continue with teaching solid fundamentals of the game”.
The Peewee Tiger Football Jamboree will be held Sunday, September 10, 2017 at Fullmer Stadium located at Niobrara County High School. There will be third and fourth grade and fifth and sixth grade divisions.
There will be 20 plays maximum offense and defense per game. All games will be played in the 8-man format with a 10 minute warm up prior to games.
There will be an open concession stand at NCHS.
Games start at 9 a.m. and will continue through the day until approximately 3 p.m.
Teams participating are Morrill, Chadron, Hemmingford, Hay Springs, Gordon
9 a.m.: Morrill vs Chadron
10 a.m.: Lusk vs Hemmingford
11 a.m.: Hay Springs vs Gordon.
1 p.m. Morrill vs Hemmingford.
2 p.m.: Lusk vs Hay Springs.
3 p.m. Chadron vs Gordon.
5th/6th grade team
10 a.m. Hemmingford vs Chadron 1
11 a.m. Lusk vs Morrill
12 p.m. Gordon vs Chadron 2
1 p.m. Chadron1 vs Hay Springs
2 p.m. Hemmingford vs Chadron 2
3 p.m. Hay Springs vs Morrill
4 p.m. Lusk vs Gordon