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Hoppers learning quickly

Patience and attention to detail are required to teach very young football players.

Sincere praise reinforces those lessons.

Gavin Wilkerson was praised for “a nice stick” after a key tackle helping his CBFO XFL Hoppers turn back a late Carter drive and win an early season game 6-0.

Steve Long, defensive coordinator for this team of 8-year-olds that won their first game of the 2010 season, Saturday, Aug. 14, also dished out praise to the “big man.”

As defensive lineman J.T. Sudderth was coming off the field, with mission accomplished in the game’s final seconds, Long said, “Awesome job … sit down J.T., you’ve earned it.”

But all 16 CBFO players contributed to the victory, earned on a hot early afternoon during CBFO bowl games at Farragut High School’s Bill Clabo Field.

Matt White’s 60-yard touchdown run was the game-winning offensive play, coming on the last play of the first half (two 18-minutes halves for all Saturday games). “The line was really impressive,” head coach Mike Gillette said.

Other team members who contributed Saturday are Carter Gillette, Robby Geron, Hunter Shopovick, Benjamin Henderson, Hunter Long, David Ridenour, Elijah Phillips, A’koiyea Johnson, Niyahn Flack, Thomas Mathes, Parker Byrd, Casey Bowen and Rauly Baggett.

While 10 of these players were together last year as Jr. Hoppers on a team “that did pretty well,” Gillette said his team has “learned a ton” since 2009. “One of the things they’ve really learned is how to work together and do a team effort.”

Defensively, “Last year they all wanted to make the tackle, now they understand if they do their job [a teammate] is supposed to make the tackle,” Gillette said.

In his second season coaching these boys with “10 to 15 years” experience as a youth football coach, Gillette added that “patience” is required. “Keep running things over and over in their heads ... give them a guideline, like papers and stuff that they can take home and study.”

Other assistants are offensive coordinator Chris Henderson, Bill Wilkinson and Kenny Bane.

“Getting good assistant coaches is your big thing,” Gillette said.


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