The greatest show on turf

The Tiny Mite Cowboys take a team photo after they’re 18-0 over the OTB Hawks in Arizona. | Lauren Crandall

The Santa Margarita Tiny Mite Cowboys led by Blake Badruan, Brian Wingate, Jonathan Crandall, Justin Schultz and Phillip Skinner talk about their dominant season going undefeated and the best part is that they only allowed two touchdowns.

Following a COVID season that cut his flag football season short, coach Badraun decided that he would move up a level and coach the Tiny Mite Cowboys team. The Cowboys are made up of five, six and seven year olds. For most of them, this is their first experience of tackle football.

“There really isn’t that big of a difference between flag and tackle the way we coach,” said Badraun, head coach of the Tiny Mite Cowboys. “It’s actually safer to be in full pads because we coach the same exact way. I don’t teach them flag rules, I teach them tackle rules and how to block currently, so it’s actually safer to do tackle over flag.”

The coaches decided that they wanted to start camps early to get the team ready for their season. From Aug. 1 through Aug. 16 they would hold practice five days a week. At practice they would find what position each person would play and get the kids used to getting tackled and getting to the ball to make their tackles.

“We really wanted them to rally to the ball and to not give up, you know was the biggest thing,” said skills positions coach Schultz . “We were trying to give these kids quite a few defensive looks and different defensive assignments, which they excelled at actually doing.”

They proved to be ready after beating their opponent in their scrimmage game by a hefty margin. The kids went out and gave it their all, which was something that was instilled into the kids from day one of football.

“All in all I tried to just deal with going 100 percent,” said defensive coach Crandall. “I tried to tell the kids, ‘You can compare the way you play on the field and you can reflect that alongside how you mirror your life. If you go 100 percent on everything you do whether it’s fighting off the edge or going around and gettin that tackle you will win if you don’t go 100 percent on the field, you guys aren’t going to accomplish your goal and get to where you want to be.’”

The Cowboys never took their foot off the breaks during their first game when they won 35-0 allowing negative 18 yards throughout the whole game. Even though the mercy rule capped them on how much they could score, the team never let that defeat them and ended up not allowing an opponent’s touchdown until week six against the Long Beach Rams. The coaches later emphasized that even though the team allowed a touchdown they still played a good game and that it wasn’t a big deal.

“Well I wasn’t too upset because I had a lot of kids playing out of positions,” said Badraun. “I went through the year wanting to not have anyone score on us, but yet I wanted the kids to get more playing time so it really didn’t bother me that much. We told the kids it’s not a big deal, teams get scored on and we would just go back and score on them”.

They coasted their way all the way into the Tiny Mite Bowl game against the Santa Ana Monarchs. By halftime the score was 6-6 and that was not how the team wanted to go out. By the end of the game the score was 24-6 and they were crowned Tiny Mite Bowl champs.

Later on Badraun approached the team with the opportunity to travel to Arizona to play one of their best Tiny Mite teams. Of course they jumped at the offer in hopes of finding some competition. It was a great opportunity for them to play against top competition out of the state and for the kids to also have some fun.

“I think the team deserved it, I mean I wanted to see what we were really about,” said Badraun. “We were blowing all the teams out and I was telling everyone all year that we were that good and we were just dominating teams because the teams we were playing in California were good. We were just that much better.”

Surprisingly the game was cut short after the Cowboys were up 18-0 in the fourth quarter. Although the game was cut it was a great experience for the team that the kids and coaches will never forget.

There was a lot that came out of the success that this team had. It all comes back to what each coach harped on every week of practice.

“The discipline and the hard work and the striving for perfection is a big part, ” said defensive coach Wingate. “You know at this age the kids are still in a formative age so it’s giving us the opportunity to build character into them. I think with good character the tenacity and the grit and the work ethic is what we are instilling in them and frankly we had more than just a few players that were really talented so that never hurts.”

All the coaches were very proud of what the kids were able to accomplish this season. They were put through long practices daily and were tasked to learn a huge playbook throughout their time with the team. Being able to play in the championship game was a highlight none of them will forget.

“Our team versus the Arizona team and I mean to play in a championship at any level whether it’s with seven year olds or the superbowl for the NFL, ” said offensive line coach Skinner. “It’s an amazing accomplishment to just get there so I would never discount the championship game.”

The Tiny Mite Cowboys look to move up next year and win another championship ship next year starting during the summer.