Maverick Teams Loaded With Years Of Experience

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Experience, size, speed and confidence are the attribute, which the seventh- and eighth-grade Rim Country Middle School Maverick football players and coaches believe will lead to yet another stellar season this year.

In fact, it might seem amazing to some the levels of experience many of these young players bring to the gridiron.

The eighth-grade team alone has 11 of its players who through the Payson Youth Football Program have already played together six to seven years. Also, 24 of the team's 29 players are returning from last year's team which ended the season at 6-1.

Over on the seventh-grade Mavs, 20 of the 30 players also have previous experience through the Youth Football program.

The coaches for both squads are excited about the wealth of knowledge these players bring to the Maverick football team.

But eighth-grade head coach Chuck Crabdree warns that this does not mean the Mavericks do not have their work cut out for them.

"The teams we played last year who didn't have a youth football program were really no competition," he said. "This year, however, we will be playing Blue Ridge, Round Valley and many of the other White Mountain teams and every one of them have great football programs."

Coach Crabdree is assisted by Cory Kroll who brings to the Maverick staff considerable experience from his previous coaching position in Coolidge. Both seem determined to lead the eighth-graders to the top again this year.

The coaches aren't the only ones with confidence.

"Our backfield is fast and can just run over people," eighth-grade Mav quarterback Pete Hargis said. "And, I have a pretty good arm and we have some great receivers, so our offense will be very tough."

Fullback Michael Waterman points to the backfield as being the strongest part of the team. "And our line can open holes big enough to drive a semi-truck through."

"Special teams will also do good this year," tailback Andy Sargent said. "They're fast and can really tear up the field."

Coaches Ned Schall and Dave Blalock say their seventh-graders have put almost as much mileage on the field as the older boys.

Quarterback, tailback and linebacker Josh Blalock will be starting his sixth year in organized football. Other standouts to watch include fullback Cash Armstrong and offensive and defensive lineman Jake Gressley.

Armstrong pointed out the differences as he now moves into the middle school football program.

"The kids are a lot bigger than in youth football and there is a lot more of a ground game," he said.

Signal caller Blalock doesn't seem concerned though.

"We have good receivers, a lot of speed and a great line," he said. "You can have the fastest runners, but without a good line, you got nothing."

All three agreed on what their biggest goal is for this year.

"Our goal is to beat the snot out of Blue Ridge," they agreed.

Coach Schall seems to think that goal is achievable.

"I think the White Mountain schools are mostly on a down-swing while we are definitely on an upswing," he said. "It should help to contribute to a great Maverick season."

When asked about the biggest challenge they face this year, coaches for both squads point to the lack of equipment. That forces them to borrow pads and helmets and makes it difficult to get all the players practicing safely at the same time.

Both seventh- and eighth-grade teams open their seasons Thursday, Aug. 24 against CAPPS Middle School. The seventh-graders play at the Payson High School field, while their eighth-grade counterparts travel to Heber. Game time is 3 p.m.

The teams alternate their home and away games. When the eighth-graders are on the road, the seventh-graders will be playing at home.

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