AFL Youth Arena Football tackles Lockhart
By Alonzo Garza
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL…in the spring? Ready or not, the Lockhart Wranglers and their youth arena football are here. Two Lockhart teams participated in the Austin Wranglers AFL Youth Spring Tackle League games on Saturday, May 19. The games were scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the City Park soccer field. Other teams pla
ying out there included the Steiner Ranch Predators, Hutto Desperados, Austin Southwest Soul, Leander Voodoo and Cedar Park Destroyers.
Both Lockhart Wranglers teams won. The 11-12 year olds played an exciting game against the Cedar Park Destroyers at 9:00 a.m. and beat them 35-34. The game was close throughout its entirety. The 9-10 year olds played at 2 p.m. against the Austin Southwest Soul and won 27-12. It, too, was an exciting game with plenty of tough talk from the coaches. The 9-10 year olds kept their rank of second in their division Saturday afternoon. It was a hot day to be out there toughing it out, but those young boys played like seasoned professional football players thanks to all the extra training from the Austin Wranglers Youth Football Leagues and Camps.
The Austin Wranglers Youth Arena Football League is a developmental league dedicated to teaching young players who love the sport of football the proper techniques of the game. This past March, professional coaches and players from the Austin Wranglers team came to Lockhart for a weeklong training camp to coach and tutor the Lockhart players. Each game was a teaching session where the fundamentals of the game were taught.
The newly appointed Director of Austin Wranglers Youth Football Leagues and Camps is former Longhorn standout as a defensive back (1983-1987) and professional football player for the Cleveland Browns (1987-1991) and Miami Dolphins (1992-1993), Stephen Braggs. Coach Braggs definitely earns his salary. He was out there setting up the blow up arena as fast as he could, making sure every child was suited up properly, getting his referees ready, setting up the game schedules, meeting with the team coaches and just all around making sure that everything was good to go with the event.
When asked why he was as hands on as he was, Braggs responded with, “There is a famous Chinese quote on my website that says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This is that step. We are just getting off the ground and we need to be patient. We need to work hard but we need to be patient. We will be tested, but so far everyone has been very supportive. This league will help the kids understand that it takes commitment to be brilliant at the basics and fantastic at the fundamentals.” Braggs could not hold still for even a moment so he asked me to follow him around as he went on about his business.
“Long term, I want to be able to go to Universal Studios to play our championship games there. Like Pop Warner goes to Disney World, I want to take this program all the way to Universal Studios. That’s the main objective, to give these kids and the program national exposure.”
If they keep working as hard as they were on Saturday, they couldmake it to Universal Studios sooner than they expect. Currently, Braggs is the founder and president of All Pro Strategies Football Camps Inc.
The Lockhart Wranglers teams are made up of players from all three of the fall leagues, essentially creating an All-Star league with kids who truly love the sport and want to continue to improve their game. The two teams have kids from Pop Warner, CFPO and TYFA and are headed by President Arthur Villarreal, Vice President Matthew Lenington, Treasurer Stephanie Perez and board member Calvin Pierce.
According to Pierce, who put the teams together along with Villarreal, “Coaches and players have come together to learn better football. We even have two seniors from the Lions high school team mentoring the next generation of Lions. The Lockhart players have learned a lot this year. Arena football is a pass-oriented game and traditionally, Lockhart teams have never developed a passing game. In this fast paced type of football, our kids have really come along and become competent in their passing game.”
Pierce went on to talk about all the great things he has seen since the beginning of this first year of arena football in Lockhart. He was adamant about stressing how he wanted all of the Lockhart teams to come together.
He finished by stating “We’re just here to improve football, to get everyone on one team, a unified Lockhart, that’s really what we’re trying to do.”
I want to thank Calvin Pierce for calling me and inviting me out to the games. I was pleased to have met Stephen Braggs and learn about his program. I hope to see them back in Lockhart soon.