Small but mighty, CLP Pirates turning heads

The Cache La Poudre Middle School Pirates eighth grade football team ended their season as winners. It wasn’t just because they beat Lesher Middle School, according to one of their coaches, Jae Brewen. It is true that their victory allowed them to finish the season with four wins and three losses, but Brewen says the brotherhood that developed among team members was the real win.

“We haven’t had a winning season since anyone can remember,” he said.

It is fact that CLP is the smallest of the district’s middle schools and therefore has a smaller pool of potential players. “There are 50 boys per grade and we try to get half of them to come out for football,” Brewen said. “We don’t get quite that many.”

He has been coaching for four years, two years before his son Caden became a member of the team. Next year Caden moves on to Poudre High School but dad will stay behind as CLP’s coach. Marc Oliver, who coaches with Brewen, just completed his fifth year of coaching. His son Hunter has moved on to Poudre where he is a junior on the football team.

“We’re sending a solid team to Poudre next year,” Brewen said. He believes part of the team’s success is the result of the relationship they have developed with the high school team. “The school has long-term, dedicated coaches and a great tradition which they like to share with middle school teams through a summer camp, middle school night where the younger players are recognized at half-time and invitations to the middle schoolers to practice on the varsity field,” Brewen said.

The CLP coaches focus on injury prevention, respect for authority, self-discipline and on creating an awareness of the importance of team effort. Their goal is to shape the kids into decent men and women and help them to understand that participation is more important than winning. The lone girl on last year’s team didn’t show up this fall, making this the first Pirates season without a girl on the team, Brewen said.

He credits support from CLP Athletic Director Abby Himley, the community and team parents for making their season such a successful one. One of their losses came in overtime and the other was a very close score.

Parents shuttle team members around and participate in game-day events that include introducing each player, welcoming the opposing team and coaches and having the two teams huddle together the end of the game. The kids know that soon their opponents of the day will be their teammates in high school.

The seventh and eighth grade CLP teams play separate schedules but stretch and warm-up together as a single unit. They have lots of fans in the community and among parents who take their turns shuttling kids around and organizing game day events designed to let the team members know how important they are to the success of the whole. The coaches say they could not do their jobs without the volunteer help.

They love what they do and have no plans to move on even though they no longer have children on the team.

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