Tough Guys

Full pads, full contact, no slackers allowed

"Go hit #5," shouts a Longhorns coach. "Your only responsibility is to hit #5 whether he's got the ball or not!"

Late in the fourth quarter, about to slide to 0-4, the Longhorns' quarterback is ejected for punching a player in the back while they're down. Coach Skip Cummins, a tightly wound ball of testosterone, explodes:

"Take your jersey off and go home, you're a disgrace to the Longhorns!" he's in the center of the field yelling at the boy, his own son. As the youngster sits crying on the bench, the coach returns again and again to chew him out. Finally, a bystander behind the fence has had enough and shouts at the top of his lungs that the coach is the disgrace.

Lynnard averages about three touchdowns a game.
Daniel Kramer
Lynnard averages about three touchdowns a game.
Longhorn coach Skip Cummins talks to his son, Max, after chewing him out for a foul.
Daniel Kramer
Longhorn coach Skip Cummins talks to his son, Max, after chewing him out for a foul.

Bill Hughes used to be a youth coach and he's never seen a coach explode like that.

"These are young kids. They need to be inspired, sure, about the game but they don't need to be chewed out in front of everybody where it makes them cry and feel bad."

Murphy Graham, the football director, was also upset over what happened.

"It's fricking seven- to eight-year-old football," he says with a tone of exasperation. "You know, I mean, do you remember anything from when you were eight years old? Kids don't remember. They may remember if they won the championship but they're not going to remember their record. Some of these kids don't know what offense or defense is.

Graham's fear is that of all youth sports program directors: to be a clichť, to be on the news because some dad freaked out. He saw video of the alleged punch and says it was really weak and should not have been an ejection.

"The thing was, it wasn't even like a good punch, It was almost like a push," he says. "Because they both went down and the kid that got knocked down kinda, you know, looked at the kid and went nnnyyaah. I mean, you know, like they do at the dinner table with their little brother. I was really surprised that he got ejected for that, but you know we have to stand by our officials."

When asked what he thought about six-year-olds doing one-on-one tackling drills, he said, "Look, these kids have so much equipment on and their helmets are so big, they look like little Martians out there. I mean, it is football, they've got equipment on and the object is to knock people down."

The Trojans' fifth game, another Tuesday night contest, is against the 4-0 Raiders. The field is sopping wet and the smaller, quicker Trojans are stymied. They look tired. They've only had two days since they pummeled the Longhorns and they practiced yesterday. After halftime, Lynnard finally breaks loose with a 50-yard run down the right side of the field. Ten yards before the goal line, he starts some kind of high-kicking antics that smack of hot dogging.

After the game, which the Trojans lose 33-21, thus slipping to 3-2, Lynnard's dad explains that there was a lot of water on that end of the field and he was just trying to tippy toe through the water to keep his shoes dry.

After the customary mad dash to the concession stand for some well deserved candy, the Trojans have 12 days of rest before facing the division rival Cougars.

Unfortunately, in the interim, fullback Burton Schnake accidentally gashes his leg while playing at home.

When game time arrives, the Trojans come prepared with a totally revamped offense. With 25 seconds left in the game, the score is tied 12-12 when the Cougars heave a Hail Mary pass into the end zone and complete the touchdown.

"It was a tough loss," David Hughes said as the Trojans slid to 3-3. "It was a very tight game and a battle from the get-go. It made us realize how important of a piece Schnake is to the team."

That is made even more evident the following week as the Trojans suffer their third straight loss, a 39-19 beating by the Colts.

Watching a Trojan player writhe on the ground in a full-on temper tantrum, Rhonda Miller -- mother of Casey -- says she's surprised there aren't more of these. "Yeah, I mean, they're little, they're supposed to act like this. Tired, it's early. He probably didn't have much breakfast.

"I don't know if [losing] matters at this point...the only way they know if it matters is if the adults, the parents make a big deal about it and the coaches and see, ours are oblivious to the fact that they lost."

The Millers have recently returned from an eight-year stint working for Halliburton in Indonesia, where Casey tried soccer and played rugby for a while. But it's always been football for her sons, American football.

"It is OUR sport," she says. "That no one else can do. And it was such a big deal for them to come home and play American football. And I honestly think that's why we're here more than anything, is because my boys are so patriotic. When we were overseas, they would just make you cry. They would introduce themselves to you and they would say, 'My name is Sam Miller and I'm an American.'

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