Where Bulldogs, Volunteers and Tigers get their start

JC AMBERLYN/Miner<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->The High Desert Rattlers Junior Peewee team practices Tuesday, with assistant coach Donnie Simms joining the action. The season begins with five football games starting at 9 a.m. Saturday and continuing with kickoffs at 11, 1 p.m., 3 and 5, all at Kingman’s Southside Park.

JC AMBERLYN/Miner<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->The High Desert Rattlers Junior Peewee team practices Tuesday, with assistant coach Donnie Simms joining the action. The season begins with five football games starting at 9 a.m. Saturday and continuing with kickoffs at 11, 1 p.m., 3 and 5, all at Kingman’s Southside Park.

KINGMAN - Let's not lose track of what could be the Kingman football community's future.

Kingman's Pop Warner Football team, The High Desert Rattlers, offers many incentives to give kids the chance to put on a football uniform.

"In terms of the local sports scene, it's just getting the youth involved with Pop Warner completely. The kids don't feel any added pressure," said Charles Alan, vice president of the governing board and the Rattlers' head coach. "There's a lot of benefits to this program. There's regional awards, national awards. They give scholarships out, even for fifth-graders. They reward the kids not only in the classroom, but on the field as well."

And the boys aren't the only ones who get involved. Previously known as the Cobras, the Rattlers have their own cheerleading squad. No joke.

"These little guys love to watch the cheerleaders," Rattlers' President of the Governing Board Jeni Rapp said, chuckling.

It's not only an opportunity for young ladies to learn how to be cheerleaders, but the organization feels as though they're like any other bunch, at any level: a strong support system for the players.

"They are competitive cheerleaders. They are very serious about it," Rapp said.

Pop Warner football teaches fundamental skills, values and knowledge needed for these young athletes (ages five to 14) to succeed. While the organization stresses the importance of getting and staying active, academics are a centerpiece.

The kids have to maintain good grades to be eligible to play. The purpose is to help them prepare for junior high school and high school football. That's extra motivation for the kids.

Academics and health are keys. However, there are expectations when it comes to physicality. For example, players not only have to get down to a healthy playing weight, but also have to play against someone of the same size.

"It's more of a safety issue. You can't have an 85-pound kid tackling a 45-pound kid and think that's safe. That is not safe," Rapp said.

At the same time, the goal is to allow every kid to get playing time. The last thing they want is for some of the players to just sit on the bench the whole game.

"Pop Warner has a mandatory play rule. No kid sits on the sideline. You just don't," Rapp said. "We mandate that every kid gets a minimum of 10 plays, and it just depends on the size of their team. Everywhere we go, we have play counters making sure that the kids are getting their plays."

The Rattlers' season starts against the Bullhead Firebirds this Saturday at 9 a.m. in Tiny Mites division action at Kingman's Southside Park.

"That's a new beginning for all of us. We're just going to continue to grow from here. Once the community starts to see that, 'Yes, there is, in fact, Pop Warner. There is a different regime.' Hopefully, we'll bring some regional titles back," Alan said.

The second Tiny Mites game, at 11, features the Parker Panthers against the River Valley Vipers.

The Junior PeeWee action begins at 1 p.m. when the Rattlers take on the Bullhead Firebirds. The Lake Havasu Chiefs and Blythe, Calif., Firebirds play at 3 and the Parker Panthers and River Valley Vipers round out the action at 5.

Additional information can be found at hdrattlers.com.