N.Va. Boys' Championship Dream Doomed by a Moment of Vengeance
Saturday, November 4, 2006
The South County Raptors, a scrappy football team made up of 12- to 14-year-old boys from southern Fairfax County, were supposed to meet the Herndon Hornets today in the first round of the county playoffs.
Instead, the Raptors are at home, their season over with no possibility of a championship after a league commissioner fired the head coach and the assistant coach this week. Their offense? They moved the commissioner's son from defense to offense for the final game of the season last Saturday, an overtime win that put the Raptors in the postseason.
"Scott does not sit out on defense -- ever," the commissioner, Dan Hinkle, had warned the head coach, James Owens, in an e-mail sent before the season began about how he should play Hinkle's son, 12. On defense, the father said, "he goes in and stays in. That includes all practices, scrimmages and games. This entire league exists so he can play defense on the best team in his weight class. . . . He is my son, I own the league, and he plays every snap on defense."
The sudden end to the season, which began with preseason practice in the wickedly hot days of late August, has crushed the 19 boys on the team. The parents are just as upset. Meetings have been held. E-mails have flown all week as the parents tried to get Hinkle to reconsider.
"Every time I think about this, I get sick to my stomach," Owens said. "These kids worked hard to get this far. These kids were unbelievably excited about making the playoffs."
Hinkle would not comment for this article. The commissioner offered to hire a new coach, but the boys would play only for Owens.
The Fairfax County Youth Football League is one of the area's largest, fielding 314 teams in various weight and age categories. Hinkle is commissioner of the South County Youth Association, one of 23 clubs that make up the league.
The investment by parents in time and money is substantial. Parents pay a fee of as much as $160, which goes toward equipment and other costs. They also have to ferry their boys to practice three times a week.
Before the season, Hinkle set out the specific terms of his son's play to the coaches. In the e-mail to the two coaches, he said he would leave it up to them whether Scott played offense. But the commissioner also said that Scott must play every minute on defense.
When the coaches got the e-mail, they said, they spoke to Hinkle and believed that he understood that the coaches would decide where his son played.
"There was a phone call with Hinkle after that initial e-mail, and I thought we had an understanding on how we were going to coach the kids," said the fired assistant coach, Bill Burnham. "The season went great. We had great kids, a really, really good bunch of kids who became good friends at school, ate lunch together at school. Really, it was everything you wanted to see out of a team experience."
Hinkle's son played defensive end for most of the season but Owens moved him to offensive guard the week before the final game because he thought the team had a better chance of winning with him on offense.