Discipline, humility contribute to championships for Calhoun Jr. Gold (GALLERY)
Nov. 16, 2013 at 5:16 a.m.
Off the field, the Calhoun Jr. Gold football team is just a group of rambunctious 9- and 10-year old boys in Port Lavaca.
But three times a week, those 20 boys lace up their cleats, put on football pads and become an unstoppable force on the field.
"As one person, we're not perfect," said first-year player Colton Herren. "But as a whole team, we're perfect."
Calhoun Jr. Gold, one of the two teams who played in Saturday's Junior division Crossroads Youth Football League Super Bowl game, went undefeated in 2013. They played Titan Jr. Black, another, powerhouse CYFL team from Victoria. Calhoun won the game 26-0.
The team has not only made appearances in the last four junior division Super Bowl games, but they've also won each of them.
Jarius Stewart, 10, William Bales, 10, and Nicholas Spencer, 11, are the only three players to be on the team each championship season.
They're team leaders, according to team mom Rose Stewart, and usually come to practice early, stay late and help newcomers.
"They set the example for what everybody else needs to achieve," said assistant coach Rob Spencer. "Just because they're new or smaller or because they might be a little bit slower, they come out and bring some intensity which makes everybody want to achieve that same goal they've already gotten to."
Ten-year-old Herren said it was really exciting to join the championship team. Many of the team veterans helped him figure out his role.
"Jarius, Nicholas and Adrian (Chambers) encouraged me and helped me a little bit with drills," Herren said. "They helped me out with pretty much everything."
Spencer said that in the first few years, Calhoun Jr. Gold didn't change its roster much.
"As long as they're in the same age group, they stay on the same team," Spencer said before practice on Thursday. "After that, we moved up in the next age bracket. Jarius and Nicholas stuck together, and we picked William back up in the draft. We moved up and had a whole other draft and whole new team. It just came together for us again (that second year)."
At the start of this season, it was a different story.
Only six of the team's previous players remained in the age bracket, and the team's eight coaches were faced with drafting 16 new players.
Some of the kids had played on other teams, while others had never picked up a football before.
"These kids just fell right in line," Spencer said. "To be honest, this is probably my favorite team to coach out of all the four teams."
A big part of Calhoun Jr. Gold's success has been the discipline they learn from the coaches, and a sense of humility, he said.
"Nobody celebrates after a touchdown; they run it in and hand it back to the ref," Spencer said. "No chest bumping, no anything like that. Tell them to do something they do it, no back talk, no attitude. Just them coming up and loving to play the game. It's been a really great season because of that."
Ask any of the players what their favorite part of the game is and they all echo the same sentiment.
"I like to hit people."
But Stewart calls them teddy bears.
"With these guys, it's special. Last year, we had hardcore 'I'm going to go get them in the face,'" Stewart said. "But these guys are teddy bears. They're big boys, but they are so loving and caring and supportive of each other. They're not a 'me', it's always 'us.'"
Steve Bales, former sports reporter and grandfather to William Bales, said his grandson has become a young man while playing on Calhoun Jr. Gold.
"It's building character," Bales said. "The way they treat each other and the way they treat their parents - you can't buy that kind of stuff."
While Calhoun High School has a strong winning tradition already, Bales believes they will reign victorious once this team reaches that level.
"I hope we keep these boys together all the way until high school," he said. "Talk about the Sandcrabs being good now; wait til they hit high school age."
Making it to the Super Bowl every year is the team's ultimate goal, coach Spencer said.
"We tell them that every year. We let them know they're going to have to work hard and they're going to hear us get on them," Spencer said. "We're going to make you run, make you hit. In the end, you ask them if they have any regrets and I guarantee you the kids are going to say no. They know all that hard work they put in all season long achieved that goal that we told them we were going to achieve."