Pee Wee Football is back, but with a twist

Staff Writer
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
The Keyser Mini-Tornadoes and the Frankfort Colts square off against each other last season.

By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

KEYSER - On Monday, Aug. 11, the Tri-State Area Pee Wee Football League announced that their board had voted to cancel their season. Pointing out that this cancellation had a direct impact on football-playing and cheerleading youths in Mineral County, this writer reported that cancellation in print.

Since that time, however, there has been a major development resulting in Pee Wee football seemingly coming back to Mineral County and the surrounds for the Fall 2020 season.  Yes sports fans, players and parents, there will be Pee Wee football and cheerleading in Mineral County this season…but with a twist.

It’s important to get this straight and accurate, and we’ll make every effort to do so. With the assistance of Chris Riggleman of the Keyser Mini-Tornado, here goes a synopsis of the facts:

After the Tri-State Area Pee Wee Football League cancelled their season, four teams have ultimately agreed to piece together a modified and shortened season on their own.  

“On their own” means despite utilizing the same team names and organizations, this modified 2020 fall season will be played completely outside of the auspices of the standing Tri-State Area Football League. Those four teams are the Keyser Mini-Tornado, Frankfort Colts, Frostburg Cougars, and Southern Rams.

Will it look like Pee Wee football? Yes. Will it be a modified version of Pee Wee football compared to what we’re accustomed to? Yes. Will kids in Mineral County now have an opportunity to play football again and cheer? Yes.

The decision to push forward in a modified way and beyond the auspices of the Tri-State Area Pee Wee Football League for this season has been both positively and negatively received. Like any COVID-19 related issue, strong opinions exist on every side of the issue and when you team that with the passion people have for their kids and for their kids playing sports, it’s easy to see how the decision to play has been put under the microscope.

Like any hot button issue, misinformation fuels the fire on both sides. In question and answer form, Chris Riggleman provides us with the facts:

Question 1: How and why did this come about?

Riggleman: “As soon as our season was cancelled, we knew there was going to be travel football. Regardless of whether we had a Tri-State Pee Wee football season or not, travel football was going to happen. To say there wasn’t going to be football in the area was not true. There was not going to be local games.  My fear was that this was going to be the beginning of the end, and I’m involved in travel football. I made this decision for the majority and not the minority. In travel football, we might only have 10 to 15 percent of our league playing in it, so 85 percent of our league wouldn’t have got to play.”

Question 2: Who spearheaded the effort to make a season happen?

Riggleman: “Wes Ours called me and said Chris, I think the guys that voted to play should have something, even if it’s a shortened season.  He said why don’t you reach out and see if the coaches that voted yes want to have some type of a season.  So, I contacted each coach that voted yes and it evolved from there.  

Question 3: What will the schedule look like?

Riggleman: “There are four teams and we’re looking at everybody playing each other twice for a six-game schedule.  We’re looking at a home and away for each opponent.  We’ve been talking a lot.  We’re all working together on the logistics.

Question 4: How will the games be different than what we’re used to traditionally?

Riggleman: “We are going to base most of our stuff from the Tri-State rules but, we’re not playing under that charter at all.  Some of the things we’re doing, we’ve modified the game time, the halftime, and the game play, just to better suit the COVID regulations.  That way we can follow the health guidelines that were presented to us by Ajay Root with the Health Department.  You know, keep crowd sizes down, keep people moving in and out of the games.  We’re looking at each team (C.B.A) playing the first half of their game, having a five-minute halftime, and then playing the second half of their game. We are going to recommend to all of our parents, you know normally we would want you to stay and cheer on the other team, but this year we are in a unique situation, we would appreciate it if you would leave to allow us to continue to play.”

Question 5:  Will there be cheerleaders?

Riggleman: “We have opened up to have cheerleaders for each team if they want.  It looks as though Keyser, Frankfort and Frostburg will have cheerleaders for sure.  I’d say it’s up in the air for cheerleaders at Southern right now.  We are going to allow them to do the same type of routines as normal but might have to limit them a little bit, because with the halftime only being five-minutes, they might have to limit their halftime cheer.  But it’s great, because we’re all working together and we’re all in it for the same reason. After week one we might have to make some modifications and we’re all okay with that.

Question 6: Who will be the head coaches?

Riggleman: “I will represent the Keyser Mini Tornado, Elliott Sebold will represent Southern, Randy Rice will represent Frostburg, and for Frankfort it will be Dan Duncan.”

Question 7: With it not being part of the Tri-State Area Pee Wee Football League, in terms of team names and equipment use and such, how will that work?

Riggleman: “We’re actually going to keep it the same way it would be normally, and here’s why.  A lot of people are upset by that, but some leagues own all the equipment and uniforms and then distribute them amongst the league, the league owns the equipment.  For Tri-State, they don’t really own any equipment or teams, so each team governs themselves within that league.  It will be the Keyser Mini-Tornado, the Frankfort Colts, the Frostburg Cougars and Southern Rams.  

Question 8: What are the four teams doing in terms of securing fields?

Riggleman: “Keyser will practice at their normal practice field which is behind BB&T, we’ve been there probably for ten years or so.  It’s a privately owned field, we rent that yearly.  We are moving our home games back to the South End.  As long as we are playing high school football, I’ve been told we will be able to play there.  Frankfort is playing at the Fort Ashby Fairgrounds for practice and games.  Frostburg will be at Glendenning Park, and Southern will be playing in Loch Lynn.  So, we all have fields.”

Question 9:  What are you doing in terms of liability insurance and such?

Riggleman: “Since we self-govern, we are always responsible as teams for our own insurance.  Right now, I know Bill Ack is our treasurer and he has paid our insurance, so our insurance is paid.  I can’t speak for each of the other teams but I know for us, we are insured as a team.”

Question 10: What have you done in terms of securing officials?

Riggleman: “I’ve talked to Danny Bauer for a little bit and we are still looking at using the same officials.  We are also looking at approximately the same game times as usual.”

Question 11:  Is this being opened up to kids outside of the existing team boundaries?

Riggleman: “Absolutely, if the teams have enough equipment.  But that will be a team by team decision. For example, if the Colts can uniform 25 players on a team per level for example and are willing, yes.  If parents are willing to come over for the year then yes, but it might be a long drive.  We’re taking into account the struggles parents will have with the virtual learning and limiting our practices to probably two days a week.  Parents have a lot on their plate.  

In the wake of the decision to cancel the Tri-State Area Pee Wee Football League season, it certainly looked as if the ability of local youth to play football and cheer would be limited only to travel-type teams, an option that just doesn’t work for the majority of kids and their families, for several reasons.

While it will look a little different, and will be played totally outside of the realm of the Tri-State Area Pee Wee Football League, area youth will at least now once again have a chance to play a modified and shortened season through the Keyser Mini Tornado, Frankfort Colts, Frostburg Cougars and Southern Rams.

There are certainly strong opinions on each side of the issues, but at least there will be an option for those choosing to participate.