Connor Murphy, quarterback for the Chargers fifth- and sixth-grade football team, rushes the ball up the middle behind his blockers Wednesday during Doak Walker football practice at Woodbury Sports Complex. Third- and fourth-grade teams begin games Aug. 22 while fifth- and sixth-graders start Aug. 23.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

Connor Murphy, quarterback for the Chargers fifth- and sixth-grade football team, rushes the ball up the middle behind his blockers Wednesday during Doak Walker football practice at Woodbury Sports Complex. Third- and fourth-grade teams begin games Aug. 22 while fifth- and sixth-graders start Aug. 23.

Doak Walker football season under way in Craig

If you go …

What: 2011 Doak Walker tackle football season opener

When: 5:15 p.m. Aug. 22 (third- and fourth-grade teams) and 5:15 p.m. Aug. 23 (fifth- and sixth-grade teams)

Where: Woodbury Sports Complex

Shane Hadley hammered home the same concept to his players Wednesday night as they ran through linemen drills at Woodbury Sports Complex.

“It doesn’t matter if you get put on your back, but keep getting up,” he said.

Hadley, who coaches the Broncos third- and fourth-grade Doak Walker tackle football team, said there’s more than X’s and O’s taught to young football players during the season.

“When they get knocked down it’s not bad, but they have to remember to get back up,” he said. “There is always going to be someone bigger in life, school and football, so they have to remember even if they get knocked down, they have to keep trying and going for it.

“It may be cliché, but if they want to continue to play football in middle school and high school, they have to do good in academics to participate in athletics.”

Doak Walker football teams had first practices of the 2011 season Tuesday and continued Wednesday at Woodbury Sports Complex.

Third- and fourth-grade teams, and fifth- and sixth-grade teams spread throughout the park to run through drills and scrimmages before the opening game.

Third- and fourth-grade games begin Aug. 22 while the fifth- and sixth-grade teams play Aug. 23.

All games are at Woodbury Sports Complex.

Jeff Pleasant, who coaches the Chargers fifth- and sixth-grade team and helps out with the Packers third- and fourth-grade team, said fundamentals are key to coaching young players.

“We try to teach them and give them a basis to build on,” he said. “In past years, we start with fundamentals as a place to start and then as the year goes on, we build and get a little more sophisticated in things we do on the field.”

While a passing attack is part of the offensive strategy for many high school teams, Pleasant said neither of the teams he coaches throws more than a few passes a game.

The reason, Pleasant said, is keeping the ball on the ground helps players learn assignments faster.

“We have to work with the backfield on left and right and odd and even holes, as well as teaching the blockers up front which direction they should block,” he said. “If we get more into it, the kids can get confused. With some kids, we have to start from ground zero and teach them the right technique of the position they are playing.”

As with any youth sport, Hadley said it’s important for players to start early if they plan on pursuing the game in middle and high school.

Hadley said he tries to run plays similar to the Craig Middle School and Moffat County High School football teams so his players are more prepared for the next step.

“When our players walk onto the middle school field, they will know what to expect and not have to start with the basics of the game,” he said. “They will have some experience and be able to step up when called upon.

“If we get kids hooked early, maybe they will stick with it and get a scholarship to keep playing in college.”

Pleasant said the annual Doak Walker season is about more than wins and losses. The season is about the players learning and having fun on the football field, he said.

“We aren’t going to win the Super Bowl by playing in the Craig pee-wee league,” he said. “If the kids aren’t having fun, they won’t come back next year, so we want them to have as much fun as possible.”

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