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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 27, 2011

Big game for small Pop Warner football players

By Jordan J. Michael

GUILDERLAND –– Head Coach Jeff McGrath had to calm down his Guilderland Pee Wee football players when he told them about the possibilities of a Super Bowl. The kids were extremely excited.

“I didn’t tell them until we clinched a playoff spot,” McGrath said. “Some of them didn’t even know about it at all.”

The Guilderland Pop Warner Junior Pee Wee team (9-1) will face East Greenbush (10-0) in the Capital District Pop Warner Super Bowl on Saturday after shutting out Averill Park and Bethlehem in consecutive weeks. The Dutchmen’s defense hasn’t given up any points in five weeks.

“These kids are tenacious,” said McGrath of his players, which age from 9 to 11. “They form around the ball and get better every week. They have a lot of momentum right now.”

Guilderland was so excited about getting to the Super Bowl that it got a little ahead of itself during the Bethlehem game, which it won, 32 to 0. McGrath said a player, when Guilderland had a 6-to-0 lead, told him that the Dutchmen were going to the Super Bowl.

“I said, ‘Wait. Not yet,’” McGrath said. But, the kid was correct. Guilderland is one of the last two teams after being one of 22 when the season began.

“This is quite the accomplishment,” said McGrath. “They’re playing well and hitting harder.”

Of course, at such a young stage, there are different levels of understanding with players. Some of the kids just want to run around, and some get emotional about the results.

McGrath told The Enterprise that five of the 11-year-olds, including his son, Ryan, the quarterback, “get it,” but some don’t know the difference between offense and defense. Guilderland has about 18 different plays on offense.

“Ryan knows the plays better than I do,” McGrath said. “But, the first-year players need to learn a lot and it does take some time. They just need to know where the ball goes.”

For the Dutchmen, it’s not just a bunch of little kids running around. The team’s 9-year-old kicker made eight straight extra points. His ninth one went off the cross bar and through the uprights. 

“That was a highlight,” McGrath said. “The kids went crazy.”

Ryan McGrath has been constantly thinking about Saturday’s Super Bowl, but his father wants to make sure that Guilderland is relaxed when the big game starts at Bleecker Stadium in Albany. Coach McGrath says it’s been quite the build-up.

“These kids will always remember this game, win or lose,” said McGrath. “They’ve really responded well to the coaching this season. It’s been fun.”

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