Junior Wolfpack football: Time to raise the flagsThe first-ever Cottage Grove area flag football teams hit the field when the Junior Wolfpack flag football league starts on Monday, Sept. 12, at Hamlet Park.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, South Washington County Bulletin
It’s almost football season.
The first-ever Cottage Grove area flag football teams hit the field when the Junior Wolfpack flag football league starts on Monday, Sept. 12, at Hamlet Park.
The fun, but competitive, introductory flag football league runs from early August to the middle of October. It’s at the mite level — first and second graders — and is open to kids from Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park, Newport and surrounding communities.
In year No. 1, the Junior Wolfpack flag football program will have 10 teams and over 100 kids playing.
The flag football league is managed by Dan Smoot, the mites director for Junior Wolfpack football and Dave Blumberg, the assistant mites director. Smoot graduated from Park in 1994 and went on to play college football at St. John’s University for coaching legend John Gagliardi. When the league was formed, Smoot said he hoped 80 to 100 kids would take part in the league.
“We hit our goal of 100 — that was pretty exciting for me to see the kids and parents value the league and the excitement from the community,” Smoot said. “That was fun.”
Practices began on Aug. 12 for all flag football teams. On Wednesday, Aug. 24, the teams will scrimmage each other at Park High School’s Wolfpack Stadium as part of the Park Wolfpack Community Football Night.
“We’ve been teaching the basic fundamentals and doing agility drills,” Smoot said. “We haven’t done many actual plays just yet. It’s important because when they get to the next level they won’t have to spend as much time on things like getting in and out of a huddle, stance, snapping the ball and handing the ball off. We’ve been focusing on that and having some fun.”
Last year, three Cottage Grove and eight East Ridge Athletic Association flag football teams were formed and competed in the Oakdale Athletic Association’s flag football league. However, this year, the new Junior Wolfpack flag football program will replace the mites clinic, which was done in years past.
“The feedback from the parents has been great,” Smoot said. “Everybody is excited about it and I haven’t had one complaint yet. That makes me feel really good and makes it all worthwhile.”
In some metro area communities, flag football is becoming what t-ball has been to baseball for decades. Neighboring Woodbury has had a flag football league for many years and had 16 teams in its league this past season.
The new Junior Wolfpack flag football league will be a seven-on-seven format on a shortened field. Each team will have roughly 10 players and will play each other once, with the season culminating with an end-of-the-year tournament at Park High School’s Wolfpack Stadium. The new flag football league costs $75 and includes jerseys, nine games and weekly practices.
The Junior Wolfpack football program — a combination of the previous Cottage Grove Athletic Association and St. Paul Park Athletic Association football programs — is a nonprofit volunteer organization serving roughly 350 football players from both St. Paul Park and Cottage Grove between first and sixth grade. The program includes three levels — Mites (grades 1 and 2), Wee Pees (grades 3 and 4) and Pee Wees (grades 5 and 6).
The primary goal of the Junior Wolfpack football program is to teach the game of football in a way that emphasizes the fundamentals, creates a competitive atmosphere and allows the players to have fun learning the game.
“The kids are anxious to start playing some games,” Smoot said. “Once they show they know how to snap the ball, hand off the ball and how to line up, we’ll start doing that stuff. They’re getting there.”
See the Aug. 24 issue for the full 2011 flag football schedule