Ephrata edges Cocalico to win inaugural ‘Backyard Brawl’

By on November 15, 2017
Ephrata’s Alex McCracken (5) blocks Cocalico’s Kendall Weaver (24) to spring teammate Carson Martin (7) during the “Backyard Brawl. Photo by Missi Mortimer
Members of the Ephrata D team are all smiles in posing with the championship belt following their 13-12 victory over Cocalico. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Members of the Ephrata D team are all smiles in posing with the championship belt following their 13-12 victory over Cocalico. Photo by Missi Mortimer

On Saturday November 4, Cocalico C team hosted the Ephrata D team (both schools 7 & 8 year old teams) in the first ever “Backyard Brawl” held at Eagle Stadium in Denver.

Cocalico youth football play in the Berks League (based on age) and the Ephrata teams plays in the Red Rose Midget League (based on weight) so this is the first time in about 40 years that the youth teams have faced each other. The game was set up as a charity event and the CMFA asked that each spectator bring a canned good to the game. The accumulated goods were given to Ephrata Area Social Services.

The game definitely had a different feel to it as it was not “just another game” to either team.

Ephrata’s Alex McCracken (5) blocks Cocalico’s Kendall Weaver (24) to spring teammate Carson Martin (7) during the “Backyard Brawl. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Ephrata’s Alex McCracken (5) blocks Cocalico’s Kendall Weaver (24) to spring teammate Carson Martin (7) during the “Backyard Brawl. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Although the boys are too young to completely grasp what a rivalry means, the practice week leading up to the game was exciting.

“The boys knew they would be playing for the ‘Backyard Brawl’ Championship belt and I was amazed at how something so simple really motivated the boys,” Cocalico Midget Football Association President Jeremy Weaver said. “They wanted that belt. The game had a lot of local buzz to it. I was talking to community members about the game everywhere I went. Ephrata Head Coach Matt Buckwalter said he was doing the same thing. The goal for both teams and organizations was to do something different and to have fun. I believe we accomplished that.”

The Ephrata player introductions included each player getting their name called and performing a rehearsed professional wrestling style entrance. The championship belt had a police escort to the field by the belt master. The crowd was buzzing.

The action on the field was exciting. Both teams were well-coached. It is obvious to see that the culture of Ephrata football will be changing in a very positive way in the very near future. The game featured two tough and stingy defenses. The obvious weigh advantage was in favor of Cocalico but Ephrata countered with a fierce fighting spirit that seemed to balance out to a quite fair competition. The age vs. weight disparagement seemed to blend into irrelevance as the teams were equally matched.

The first half was littered with big plays including Ephrata having two long touchdown runs. Cocalico was able to match that with one long touchdown run to set the half-time score at Ephrata 13, Cocalico 6.

The second half was dominated by tough defense. Both sides tackled well and displayed great football fundamentals. Cocalico added another long touchdown run to get the score to 13-12. Cocalico was stopped on the one-point conversion with four minutes left to play. Ephrata was able to play good defense and on offense run the time out of regulation to earn the victory.

“I was proud of the kids!,” Buckwalter stated after the game. “We knew we were gonna be out-sized but they hung tough. We prepared them the best we could the week leading up but you never know how they will respond at game time. We have a group of solid, tough kids and winning this last game capped off a season they should be very proud of. I thought Cocalico did a nice job hosting the inaugural ‘Brawl” and I think all the kids had fun. Hopefully we can keep it going for a long time. I feel both programs can benefit from the experience in this type of game.”

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