Even though the Northwest Midget Football League season is well underway, T’Marko Chandler and Trejon Simpson look forward to getting their shots at playing high school football in the very near future. Both play for the Winston-Salem Tiny Indians Midgets team (age limit 15), and they’re confident that the time they’ve spent playing Pop Warner ball will pay off handsomely when they start high school next August.
For Chandler, who plays offensive tackle, the basic fundamentals of the game involve hitting, discipline and conditioning. Game experience has taught Chandler that at his position, he needs to be aggressive, but not reckless.
“To play well as an offensive lineman, you have to be under control,” he said. “On the line, you have to be better than the man who lines up in front of you.”
Football is a sport in which the outcome is usually determined by which team has the better front line. That’s a truism that applies to every level of the game – Pop Warner, high school, college and the pros.
“Discipline plays a big part,” said Chandler, who plans to attend either Mount Tabor or West Forsyth. “If offensive linemen don’t do their assignments, the offense won’t run the way it should.”
Chandler realizes that being in good physical shape to play the game cannot be taken for granted. Having the stamina to give 100 percent effort, he said, makes a big difference.
“You have to have good wind to play hard all the time,” he said. “And it also helps to have some speed. If you’re slow, you probably won’t make the team.”
Playing high school ball has been Simpson’s dream since the first time he played Pop Warner when he was seven years old. Simpson feels that the work habits he’s developed as a youth football player will serve him well when it’s time for high school try-outs.
“Hard work is what it takes to make it,” said Simpson, who is undecided about which high school he plans to attend. “That’s the most important thing I’ve learned during the time I’ve played Pop Warner football. I’ve worked a lot on learning tackling techniques and getting better with my footwork, jumping ability and pass coverage.”
One area of Simpson’s development that he wants to improve on is his leadership skills. Simpson explained that by sharing what he knows about the game based on his playing experience, he’s in a better position to help other players who haven’t played as much as he has.
“When you have players who can teach others about what they should do, it helps everybody on the team get better at what they do for the team,” he said.
Chandler and Simpson acknowledged that anyone who has a desire to play high school football should pay careful attention to getting the job done in the classroom.
“You’ve got to work hard to be good at football,” said Simpson. “But you also have to work hard in school to get on the football field.”