RECTOR, AR (KAIT) – Third grade students in the Rector School District are now allowed to participate in practices and some games in the Rector Pee Wee Football League. According to Kirk Ford, who coaches a team of third and fourth grade students, this is the first year third graders are allowed to practice football. It was a move made after the city learned the school would not be able to field a senior high team.
"Every year before, fourth grade is the first year we started. So actually this is everybody's first year. The third graders we started this year for the simple fact is we don't have high school football," said Ford. "In a small town, it takes everybody in the community to make it work, and so we looked and talked about and decided to bring the third grade on this year."
Ford and Anthony Buck, Gary Loveless, Todd Ford and Shawn Bucy have coached the youngsters for a few weeks. Friday night, third graders played their rival fourth graders under the lights of the high school field.
"We're all passionate about football and we don't want to see it gone so we're, me and four other coaches, we're all volunteers but we love it, we put a lot of time into it and we enjoy it," said Ford.
Rector also has a fifth and sixth grade team, which plays in the Northeast Arkansas Youth Football League, made up of 15 teams. Normally the teams play on Saturday mornings.
"We knew we weren't going to have high school so we thought let's try it on Friday, we talked to the coaches and they said it would be a great idea," said Ford.
More than 30 players played in front of an estimated 100 people in the stands. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and grandparents cheered their family members on.
"I mean these little guys. It's funny. They love it just as much as anybody else. They get a kick out of it," said Ford.
"They'll learn about success. I mean success is not given, it's earned. I mean they get out here and work hard and they can be successful and win games," said Bucy.
There are 57 players in the Rector Pee Wee ranks, half of which have never played a snap.
"Our responsibility is to keep them here, make them enjoy, that way when they move up they'll stick with it," said Ford.
"I thought it would be great for the town since we're not able to field a senior high team this year. It's good to have a Friday night game out here," said Bob Alberson, head coach at Rector High School.
Alberson said a Pee Wee football program is something the city has needed for a while and hopefully it'll create more interest in the gridiron.
"It's always good to get a head start, especially at a young age like this. I mean I played when I was in the fourth grade, fifth grade and sixth grade and when I got to the seventh grade, I felt I was more advanced than those guys were that didn't get to play at all," said Alberson.