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North Pop Warner starts new season

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Sep 23, 2020

North Fort Myers Tiny-Mite Ryder Edison powers past a Cape Youth defender during a game Saturday in Cape Coral. CHUCK BALLARO


After more than a month of practice, the North Fort Myers Pop Warner football program kicked off its season last week, playing against some of the best programs in the Peace River Conference.

For the Tiny-Mites, the youngest group of players, the score doesn’t matter. For them, it’s about playing for the love of the game, learning about how it’s played, and the coaches making sure they stay safe.

For head coach Joe Spencer, the most important thing is for the kids to have fun and learn and fundamentals.

“We don’t keep score or any of that. It’s about having fun and make sure you enjoy it and come closer together as a team,” Spencer said about his team, which had all of 16 players when it played at Cape Youth on Saturday at Storms Field.

In Tiny-Mite ball, two coaches are allowed on the field at all times. If they have to physically place the kids where they need to be, they do so.

The games are played in two 22-minute halves, with each team getting three timeouts per half. There is no real hurry in getting the plays off, and safety is at a premium.

Over the course of the last seven weeks, the Red Knights have improved on the field. They have learned to finish their blocks and run to the correct holes. Most important, they have jelled as a team.

“As the season has gone on, they have become closer and closer. I’m real big on getting parents to bring their kids back because the kids love working with me,” Spencer said, who is in his second year of coaching. “They work hard and give it their all every single play.”

Even at this young age, the coaches can see which players have potential and are breaking away from the pack. For the Red Knights, it’s players like Ryder and Tyler Edison, as well as Kingston Oreste, who are the main players carrying the ball, have shown great potential.

“Tiny-Mite football is the most exciting. There are a lot of high-fives among opponents that you don’t see,” said Steven Brown, football coordinator. “We have great talent coming in and the coaches are doing a good job developing them.”

Once the kids reach an 8U program (the Mitey-Mites) only one coach is allowed on the field and cannot say anything once the huddle breaks… until week five, when no coaches are allowed, which is new to Pop Warner.

“The coaches have to implement their systems enough to be off the field. It does a justice to the kids because they have to learn to be accountable for their jobs on the field,” Brown said.

COVID-19 is playing part in how all teams handle things. Brown said it depends on whether the county or the city runs its parks. North Fort Myers Community Park is run by the county, which requires temperature taking at the gate, and the players having their own personal water person to dispense it to them.

“It’s been a lot of work for our board of directors getting our books ready for the season. I feel most blessed about the community support,” Brown said. “The sponsors have flown in and brought money to the program for the season when we didn’t think there would be one.”