MARLIN, Texas (KWTX) Marlin has long been known as a production hub for football stars who often go on to play in college and even the NFL, but this year the program that many of those players passed through has been benched.
(Photo by Rissa Shaw)
For the first time since its inception in the 1990s, Pee Wee Football in Marlin has been cancelled, officials confirmed to KWTX Wednesday.
“Due to a lack of kids’ participation, Marlin has to inform the Heart of Texas Board that they will not be playing this coming year,” said League President Lemone Reece.
Marlin Youth Athletic Association President Jay Butler said they only had 15 kids register.
"We couldn't get the numbers we were supposed to get in the amount of time we needed to buy things and do things that we need," said Butler. "It's never happened before."
M.Y.A.A. officials said they gave parents 73-days to sign up and even offered payment plans for the $75 registration fee (which Butler said is the cheapest in the region and includes equipment).
Butler acknowledged some kids moved and went to other teams, but he didn't know exactly why turnout was that low.
"Hopefully they'll be back next year or some new kids will move into town," said Butler.
In order to play, Butler said they're required to have at least three teams of 15 players, one in each age group, for a total of 45 players.
Kursten Crumpton's son Austin was one of the 15 kids registered.
"We had already paid, we were ready to get his uniform," said Crumpton.
Crumpton said they were disappointed to hear there wasn't enough interest because her son had so much fun playing his first season last year that it's all he's been talking about since.
"I waited until the last possible minute to tell him they weren't going to have a team, and he was just like 'that kinda makes me sad,'" said Crumpton.
Austin said he will miss his teammates.
"I like them," said the seven-year-old. "I wanted to play still."
While the city won’t have a league of its own, there is another option for aspiring Marlin athletes like Austin: they may play for another team.
“Marlin kids will have the choice to join any surrounding area’s leagues within our region,” Reece said.
“When Marlin comes back on board in 2019, the kids will transfer back.”
Marlin is one of the five teams in the region which includes Groesbeck, Mexia, Palestine, Crockett, Corsicana and Centerville.
Crumpton, who also has a young daughter and works nights, said it might not be possible for her to get Austin to and from practice in another city.
"We don't know what we're going to do yet. we're just gonna try to get him to play football, I know he really wants to," said Crumpton. "It is definitely a possibility we'll have to wait for next year, hopefully they'll have a team."
Groesbeck is already welcoming Marlin players.
“Groesbeck HOT Football League would like the opportunity to welcome Marlin area kids to our football program for the 2018/2019 season,” said Groesbeck League President Troy Waddle.
Groesbeck’s Pee Week Football coach Stephen Upton said he would pay for a quarter of the fees for the first three Marlin players who sign up.
“We would love to have a few Bulldogs on loan,” Upton said.
Trying to look at the bright side, Butler said working with different players and coaches from other places could be a good learning experience for Marlin players.
"What happens when you go to college and you're not playing with your friends?" said Butler. "I don't look at the blessing or the curse, I just said this is what was supposed to happen--let's make the best of it and come back."
Butler said he believed the program would recover and the loss of this season wouldn't hurt Marlin football's future success because they will evolve.
"I'm a positive person, I believe things happen for a reason, maybe as far as M.Y.A.A. we need to up our game or maybe they need some young blood--maybe my blood is too old, maybe someone needs to tap me on the shoulder and I'll gladly move out," Butler said with a smile.
Marlin has several coaches who have volunteered for decades including Darrell and Howard Manigo, Vince Hartsfield, Daniel Coleman and Andre Peoples.
But Butler wasn't worried about them.
"We'll find something to do," said Butler.
He was concerned about the kids who might not be able to play somewhere else this season.
"Hopefully parents have thought about that and they're going to find them something to do," said Butler. "I'm willing to do some things for kids throughout the week, at least try to keep our kids occupied and weather the storm."
Butler said they're going to tackle the storm head on and get a new game plan for next year.
"Okay hey we hit a hiccup, let's go back to the drawing board and let's see what we're going to do again, see what we're going to do for next year," said Butler.
"Hopefully it will go better, I'm not a person to give up," he said.