Pittsfield Bulldogs 14U football team returns from the World Youth Championship Northeast region 1-1.
This is the second year the Pro Football Hall of Fame has put together what Bulldogs head coach Jim Wheeler calls the "Little League World Series of Football."
"It was a lot of pressure on the kids," Wheeler said. "Playing two games in two days was impressive. The kids will never forget this. They gained experience and made plenty of new friends in the process."
The kids arrived in Sparta for the Northeastern round of the Youth Championship on Thursday and were greeted with a media day. It featured interviews with athletic directors from different prep schools and Rich McGuinness, the Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Academy.
After media day, the Pittsfield Bulldogs played their first game of the weekend against the Northern Vermont Spartans. The Bulldogs kept it close with the help of two goal-line stands, trailing 7-0 at the end of three quarters. They took some chances in the fourth, but were outscored 13-0, losing the weekend's first game.
"Our front four was outstanding," Wheeler said. "They did everything we wanted them to do. It was impressive all the way around. Every kid on the team contributed."
Saturday's game featured a match up with the Monmouth/Winthrop Ramblers from Maine. Pittsfield came away with the win, 8-0.
"We were able to play some man [defense] and lock in," Wheeler said. "They played a college spread offense, throwing the ball about 80 percent of the time. The kids were stripping and ripping, knocking out the ball any way they could. The kids showcased both talent and emotion."
Wheeler believes that, most importantly, these kids will benefit immensely from playing against some of the best talent in the Northeast.
"The play calling was fast," Wheeler explained. "It was a lot different than what we usually see. A lot of pulling guards and trapping. Teams used all 50 yards from sideline to sideline. The kids realized it's a big world out there when you face teams with 37 kids and 10 coaches on the sideline. It felt like a high school game."
The Bulldogs received plenty of support from their competitors in Berkshire County and hope another local team receives an invitation to the tournament next season.
"It feels incredible for Berkshire County to be on the map," Wheeler said. "It isn't about representing the Bulldogs, but the entire Berkshire area. Hopefully this can show that Berkshire County has football talent. It was a great feeling for [Berkshire County teams] to cheer us on. We hope another local team receives an invite soon. We want to support them as much as they supported us."
Jacob Mendel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.