Young Fairfax Team Is Invited to Compete In Special Bowl Game

"We're glad to do this" for the South County Raptors, says Mark Meana, chairman of the Fairfax County Youth Football League. "We didn't like this situation from the start." (By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)
By Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 6, 2006

The South County Raptors might suit up after all, at least for one more game.

Just days before the team of 12- to 14-year-old boys from southern Fairfax County was headed to the playoffs, their season abruptly ended when the league commissioner fired the head coach and an assistant coach -- all for moving his son from defense to offense in the final game of the regular season, according to the former coaches and players' parents.

Now, some league officials are coming to the team's defense. It won't be the championship they dreamed of winning, but plans were drawn up yesterday for the team to play in a bowl game sponsored by the Fairfax County Youth Football League this month.

League Chairman Mark Meana said yesterday that he notified the coaches that the Raptors would play in a game against the winner of their division or an all-star team.

"We're glad to do this," Meana said. "We didn't like this situation from the start. We have never been faced with a situation like this before, the personalization of one team, and so we can't change what happened, but we can do this."

Meana said that if the Raptors' players and parents go for it, the game would be played -- regardless of whether Dan Hinkle, the South County Youth Association commissioner who fired the coaches, agreed.

"If he doesn't let us use his equipment, we have already found other teams who will donate equipment and jerseys," Meana said.

Hinkle said yesterday that he would allow the Raptors to use the equipment. "I support [the league] trying to do something for the kids. I'm behind it 100 percent, using the equipment and the facilities."

In fact, Hinkle said, he would not stand in the way of letting the entire coaching staff return to coach the bowl game, although Meana made it clear that the coaches would return regardless. Hinkle would not comment on the dispute he had with the coaches last week. "I don't want to talk about it until I can review the situation with the Fairfax County Youth Football League," Hinkle said.

The football league is one of the area's largest youth sports programs, made up of 314 teams in various weight and age categories. Hinkle is commissioner of the South County Youth Association, one of 23 clubs in the league. Hinkle founded the association last year and funded the creation of 14 football teams within his organization, including the Raptors.

James Owens, who was the Raptors' head coach, said that he hopes the players decide to play in the bowl game but that he is still unhappy that his team did not get a chance to play in the playoffs.

"I am willing to coach the team if those kids want to play. The parents are going to have to make that decision. I think it is a good thing, but it is still not resolving the issue of [the league] dealing with [Hinkle]. They haven't dealt with him yet," Owens said.

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