ROCK SPRINGS – From pretending to be Kobe Bryant sinking the final second shot to being Marshawn Lynch breaking tackles for the game-winning run, young players dream of playing on the big stage. One group of local gridiron players walked into War Memorial Stadium a little sooner than expected.
Little league football is a popular pastime every fall in Sweetwater County. School playgrounds across Rock Springs become training fields as young fifth and sixth grade students learn the skills of one of the most popular sports.
The players not only learn the sport itself but are taught about positive competition and the art of winning and losing with good sportsmanship. As the season comes down to the end the drive to win a Super Bowl intensifies, but the fun of the sport remains.
After a champion is crowned a new season of sorts gets underway. Coaches look through the 250 players who play on the eight local teams. From there, 26 players are chosen to play a handful of extra games as all-stars.
For these players, being picked as an all-star was an honor. James Scheuerman and Carter McBurnett both said they love playing football and to be picked was an honor. Tommy Faigl and Charles Atkinson said being picked for the team showed that all the hard work over the season paid off.
While all the players either go to school with or have lined up with and against each other, getting to know a new team had its challenges. On top of that, the young players only had a couple of weeks to get ready to travel to the big stage, War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.
Players practiced everyday, including some four hour practices on Saturday. The team built chemistry and learned to play with each other instead of against each other. Landen Crisler said they had all became friends and brothers within the first couple of days. They were becoming a team. The first games would show how far they had come.
Before heading to Laramie, the coaching staff set up two games, one with Green River and one with Idaho Falls, Idaho. The team won both games even though many of the players said the team from Idaho Falls was a little smaller than they expected.
With all the hard work and the two early games a success, the team loaded up and headed to Laramie.
Cadon Shaklee and Landen Crisler said it was exciting to know they were going to play where many of their idols and several professional players had suited up for battle. The young ballers are used to an 80-yard field and grass. As they walked on the field for the first time, just the size was a little intimidating.
Tommy Faigl said he intercepted the ball during one of the games against Gillette. As he looked up to start running, he noticed the size.
“It looked like it was a mile long,” Faigl said.
Another thing that all the players who sat down with SweetwaterNOW, Landen Crisler, James Scheuerman, Carter McBurnett, Charles Atkinson, Tommy Faigl and Candon Shaklee, spoke about was playing on artificial turf. The young Rock Springs players spend most of their time on grass.
Some players said the turf was not as slick while others said it did not hurt as much as grass when you slid across the turf. With the initial shock and awe of War Memorial Stadium fresh in their young minds, it soon was time to get down to why they were there in the first place, a little football.
The Rock Springs all-stars would play twice, both games against two all-star teams from Gillette. Within the first couple of plays, War Memorial Stadium turned into just a regular field.
Carter McBurnett said nothing else mattered but playing football. Charles Atkinson said it was just like any other game.
While the young players will keep the memory of being picked as all-stars and playing at War Memorial Stadium for the rest of their lives, it still all boiled down to being a team and playing football. Not to mention the life skills taught, like playing with respect and sportsmanship. All the young players plan on moving to the junior high next season to continue their young careers.
Oh by the way, the young all-stars defeated both all-star teams from Gillette for the first time.
2015 Rock Springs All-Stars