Tackle football now open to ages 9-14

The Stuttgart Cowboys tackle football team, in its inaugural season, has a 5-0 record and is focused on walking away as victors in the championship game in Bamberg Nov. 13.

With a 21-player roster of boys between the ages of 12-14 — some playing tackle football for the first time, the Cowboys have handily beaten teams from other military communities that have well-established programs.

U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Child, Youth and School Services now sponsors two tackle football teams: the Cowboys and Texans (for boys ages 9-12).

The Cowboys have remaining games on Oct. 23 and 30. The playoffs will be Nov. 6 and the championship game will be in Bamberg Nov. 13.

“We started the season playing two of the toughest teams: Mannheim and Heidelberg,” said Jeff Kaczmarek, 13, Cowboys quarterback and an 8th-grader at Robinson Barracks Elementary/Middle School. “I think people thought it was going to be an easy game with Stuttgart on the schedule, since we are a new team. Now, I think there’s definitely more fear of us.”

Cowboys head coach Kenneth McDaniel, buoyed by the team’s success, said that providing an opportunity for youngsters here to play tackle football is paramount.

“The kids need this developmental stage now before reaching high school,” said McDaniel, whose sons Akeem, 14, a Patch High freshman and Ahmad, 12, a RBEMS 7th-grader, play for the Cowboys. “I love flag football, coached it for 10 years and won championships, but the contact of tackle [football] can’t be duplicated.”

With equipment and uniforms on loan from the Heidelberg CYS Services, the two teams practice on a field at Robinson Barracks three days a week for one and a half hours each day.

Parents carpool and drive the players to all of the Saturday games — none of which are played in Stuttgart.

The efforts are well worthwhile for the parents and coaches, including Tederail Walker II, head coach of the younger Stuttgart Texans football team. Walker coaches a 20-player roster of boys, some of whom have never played any type of football before.

“If our kids are trying to get scholarships later on, they have to learn football fundamentals,” Walker said.  “You can’t wait until [age] 14 or 15 to finally put on pads and tackle or until 9th grade to learn blocking schemes.”

While the younger Stuttgart Texans, with a 1-3 record, haven’t fared as well as the Cowboys, Walker’s son Jahaad, 9, is still excited about his first season playing tackle football.

“At first, I was kind of scared to tackle at practice, but it felt good tackling somebody in a game,” the RBEMS 3rd-grader said. “I want to keep playing.”

Adam McDermott’s sons Adam Jr., 12, an RBEMS 7th-grader, plays for the Cowboys, and Aiden, 9, a Patch Elementary 3rd-grader, plays for the Texans.

“I hope there is a future for it,” McDermott said of the tackle football program. “I look at the great teams and great program we’ve got and the coaches doing such an outstanding job and I hope it will continue.”

McDaniel also hopes the program will be offered in years to come, and encourages the Cowboys to make the most of their time on the team.

“I tell them this opportunity is not just theirs but also for those kids who wanted to play but couldn’t and those who want to play next year,” he said.