A Recap of a David and Goliath Season
Special to GOOD SPORT Davidson County from the Wallburg Lions Little League Football Team
When the 2017 football season began for the Little League Wallburg Lions, Coach Toby Lemley had no “stickered” players, (or those over 135 lbs.) that all the other teams fielded. They were small but fast, and possessed a rare coachability and heart that comes around only once in a decade or so. What Coach Lemley and his staff did have was a solid group of core veterans who were an athletic, scrappy group who believed in themselves despite their small stature. On November 11, the 2017 Lion squad defeated the Ledford Little League Panthers, a talented team comprised of players from both Hasty and Friendship Elementary Schools, to cap off an undefeated season and take home another Davidson County Football Championship, its second in three years.
This year’s squad averaged over 28 points per game on offense and gave up only a touchdown per game defensively. The sixth-grade class was the group who, in 2014, put Wallburg Football back on the map after a literal extinction.
“Our program in 2013 was dead”, explained Coach Joe Byrd. “We were only able to field one small Junior Pee Wee Team. This core group of kids brought back the pride in Wallburg Football that I experienced as a player in the late 1980s.”
Sixth-grade starters Cohen Batchek, Brian Byrd, Anson Lemley, Ryan Suarez, Willie Gianatasio, and Grady Weavil anchored the Lion nucleus that has achieved a 22-2 overall record over the last three seasons and lead Wallburg to three Davidson County Championship Games in a row. This year’s squad added first year athletes Logan Sams and Conner Creech to its already stellar group of upperclassmen. Defensive players Mwalimu Menyika, Kainen Scott, and Calvin Handsome Jr. rounded out the outstanding group of upperclassmen who earned County All-Star recognition.
“Our kids really bought into our program’s three pillars: Discipline, Effort, and Attitude,” said Coach Lemley. This team exemplified playing the game and conducting themselves in the classroom the ‘Lion Way’.”
Despite always being the smaller team in every contest the Wallburg Lions played in this year, the Lions never wavered, and never trailed in a single game all season. With time dwindling in the third quarter of the County Championship Game, and the score
tied 14-14, Lion linebacker Cohen Batchek picked off the Ledford quarterback and returned the interception back for a touchdown, sealing the win for the Lions.
“All of the players in our program had to maintain a high level of discipline this season, especially since we were not blessed with enormous size and speed,” conceded Byrd. “We prided ourselves with the mantra of ‘Team over Self’. To be successful as a team, each player had to check any selfish ambitions at the gate, and totally ‘buy in’ to that philosophy. From our starting running back to our third-string lineman, for us to be successful, everyone had to know their role and contribute. We, as coaches, stressed the importance of all team roles. It’s important for underclassmen who may not have earned much playing time this season; to continue learn and work on developing their skill set for their leadership roles next year. That’s how teams compete successfully on an annual basis. Our football program is built around much more than winning games. Most importantly, we are about building up young people who will grow into productive, respectful citizens and leaders in our society.”
For the Wallburg Lions football squad, the season paralleled the David and Goliath story. Winning the little league crown represented months of hard work and dedication that culminated into something that no one will ever be able to take away from the team; the title of “Champion”.