By Ryan Kaczmarski
While youth tackle football has been played in Fairview Park for decades now, the teams started in the fifth grade. Anyone in Fairview Park younger than that had to play flag football, or not play any organized football at all.
Earlier this year, some parents of local youth decided that it was time for the younger kids to have a tackle team to play on.
“A small group of kids have been playing together for the past three years, in several different leagues,” head coach Tom Schuerger said. “Every league that we’ve played in has been progressively more physical. We went from noncontact to full contact, and after we went to full contact flag football, the kids and the parents decided that they wanted something a little more. We decided that it was time for them to put on some pads, because the kids were already so physical. They like to hit.”
Schuerger started to gather information from other youth tackle football leagues and see what he could do for the Fairview youth he was already coaching.
“I had a dad from one of the kids on the fifth- and sixth-grade team from the Avon Lake system get me in touch with the people running their teams,” Schuerger said. “He brought us into their league (The Lake Erie Youth Football League – LEYFL) and we went from there.
“The league gave a thumbs-up to everyone involved with us, to allow us to join, and that’s pretty much where it started.”
The Fairview Park Recreation Department has helped the team through the organization process, but the team is not directly affiliated with the city and remains independent of the Fairview Recreation Department.
“The parents knew going in that the team was going to be independent,” Schuerger said. “(The parents) funded and sponsored the team, knowing that it was just about these kids.
“The (recreation department) has helped us with any questions, and they let us hold a homecoming game on its field,” he added. “Besides that, it’s been all the parents and the kids.”
The league did not give Schuerger and the other coaches much time to get their team together.
“Within about two weeks, we had a full team,” Schuerger said. “The league was starting and we had to get in. We got our last kid (on the team) on our first day of practice. It was quick, but once we got the ball rolling, we had ourselves a team.”
For the 2012 season, there were only enough kids to field one team, but there has been interest from other parents, and kids that saw the team play this year may sign up to form multiple teams in the coming years.
Even though this is an independent team, the fact that all the kids are from Fairview Park has made it impossible not to call them the Warriors.
“We have done everything to keep the city involved,” Schuerger said. “We are the Fairview Warriors. We don’t want to go away from that.”
The age restrictions for this team are that the kids must be in either the third or fourth grade at the beginning of the school year. The roster can vary from as few as 12 to as many as 40 players on the team.
“We have 18 tough little boys playing on the team this year,” Schuerger said. “We try to rotate players as much as possible. With the coaches that we have, they have done an amazing job at getting all the kids rotated in and out of the game. We try to get everyone as close to equal playing time as possible.”
At the start of the season, every parent paid a set fee, and after that, the football program would be responsible for all expenses once the fees were paid, including equipment, uniforms and insurance.
“We want to continue the program,” Schuerger said. “It was expensive to start. We needed everything, including mouth guards, chin straps and footballs. It cost a nice little lump sum, but we don’t want this to go anywhere but to stay here and grow.”
This year’s squad managed a regular season record of 5-2-1, and made it to the championship game in its league, losing to Avon Lake, 12-6. The team embodied its pre-game chant of, “What time is it? Game time!”