Two Front Royal teams playing for midget league championship

Front Royal will be able to celebrate a midget football league championship on Saturday.

Two Front Royal teams will play for the 8-to 9-year-old Frederick County-Winchester Youth Football League championship at 2 p.m. Saturday in Ranson, West Virginia.

It will be the top-seeded Front Royal Hawks against the No. 5 seed Front Royal Wildcats.

“I’m very proud of the kids,” said Chris Ballard, head coach of the Wildcats. “We lost our opening game of the season and I thought it was going to be a long season.. The kids just went back to practice the following week, went back to work, and they’ve continued to get better throughout the year.”

The Wildcats went 4-4 in the regular season, but knocked off two higher seeds to make it to the finals.

The Wildcats beat the fourth-seeded Berryville Packers, and then defeated the third-seeded Winchester Redskins, 14-8, in overtime to advance to the championship game.

“At halftime we came off the field losing 8-0,” Ballard said. “At that age group I get a little worried at them being down. Sometimes they don’t respond well to being on the wrong side of the scoreboard. They came over at halftime, none of them had their heads down. They all had their heads up, so they were ready to go to work in the second half. They came out, tied it up, took it into overtime, and did everything they needed to do.”

The Hawks had a very different route to the final as they went undefeated in the regular season, a perfect 8-0.

Hawks’ head coach J.J. Jenkins said that half of the kids have been playing together for three years, but hadn’t had a win before this season.

“Half the kids on that team, it was their first win this year. We were like 0-14 coming into this season,” Jenkins said. “They’ve worked their butt off. We’ve had 16 weeks of practices and a lot of traveling to different counties. …Everybody’s coming together like family.”

Jenkins said he has more coaches this year, which has helped, and the kids have just worked hard and it’s paid off.

There are 10 teams in the league, with five in Winchester/Frederick County and three in Clarke County.

The Hawks defeated the Wildcats, 20-6, in their meeting in the final game of the regular season.

Both coaches said having two Front Royal teams in the final is big for the town and community.

“I’m hoping that other kids that aren’t playing football see that there are options out there for them to play football,” Ballard said. “We tell our kids all the time to talk to their friends at school. Let them know what they’re doing, how much fun they’re having. Just trying to get more kids out to pay the sport.”

“It means a lot for our small town to have the two 8-9 year olds show up for the championship out of 10 teams,” Jenkins said. “It was great. You couldn’t have wrote it any better than that. That’s what we worked for. That’s what we wanted and we got it.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com