Though the season might be over for the Clawson Mavericks, the thrill of the game is anything but.
This hometown football squad saw two of its teams - freshman and junior varsity – come away with winning records and clinch a spot in the playoffs for the first time in years. Though both teams fell short in the district championship round, the season is still one for the books.
The Mavericks are part of the Oakland Macomb/Youth Football Association (OMYFA). The league includes teams from Madison Heights, Royal Oak, Romeo, Shelby Township, Hazel Park, Berkley, Roseville, Farmington and West Bloomfield.
"These kids not only learned quickly but worked hard to put themselves in a position to win every game," said Rick Zeiter, head coach of the freshman team.
The year brought new challenges from the beginning as Zeiter's 20-man team of eight and nine-year-old boys had just one player returning from the previous season, forcing them to focus on learning how to work together right off the bat. This same group also happens to also be the first freshman team to make the playoffs since 2006.
Though they may have lost a trip to the "Super Bowl" after falling short to Madison Heights, the freshmen consider their qualifying game for the divisional championship, a 20-14 double overtime win over Roseville, a sign of just how far they've come.
"The kids grew so much during the season, not only learning the game of football but learning to play it unselfishly," said Zeiter, who notes the physical strength and coordination needed to be a part of the Mavericks. "Kids that struggled at the beginning of the year running our "big lap" could do it multiple times a day as the season went on and their conditioning improved."
Much like the freshman team, the junior varsity players also sacrificed their summer - sometimes practicing three hours per day, fives day per week - all in the name of football.
"The goal we set out to reach from the first practice was to get better at something every day... whether it was tackling, blocking or something as simple as stretching, but, most importantly to have fun," said Thomas "Ninja" Perry, junior varsity head coach.
That positive attitude that Coach Perry instilled in his 10 and 11-year-old players is the same reason that they, the fourth seed, were able to sweep the rug out from first seed Madison Heights in the starting round of the playoffs, a team the Mavericks had previously lost 32-0 against.
Both coaches agree that crowd support and the countless number of volunteers present at the Mavericks' weekend games at City Park and away on the road is vital to the club's success.
"The best part about the Mavericks' organization is the parents, coaches and volunteers that make it so successful," said Perry. "Some don't even have kids on the teams, but they are there at practice and on game days which can last eight or nine hours."
Registration for players wanting to join the 2013 team will begin in mid-April. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, stop by one of the Mavericks' board meetings, which are open to the public and take place on the first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Hunter Community Center.
For further information and to learn more about the Clawson Mavericks, visit the team's website.