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P.A.L. sixth-grade football team makes league history

Team goes undefeated for all four years, winning championships

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DISCIPLINE — The Kokomo P.A.L. sixth-grade team practices drills before the playoff game against Northwestern earlier this month.

The Kokomo Police Athletic League (P.A.L.) sixth-grade football team made league history last week after winning its fourth championship game with all undefeated records.

The team, coached since third grade by Tim Johnson, played in the playoff game earlier this month against Northwestern, winning 46-0. This victory led the team to the championship game last Wednesday against Hamilton Heights, where the team finished its perfect four-year record with a final score of 20-14.

“It was a great, enjoyable game. Two good and well-coached teams playing each other in the championship was very enjoyable watching and coaching,” Johnson said.

The first quarter of the game was tied 0-0. During the second quarter, Kokomo and Heights both scored, making the halftime score 8-6, Kokomo. In the third quarter, Kokomo scored again, moving the points up to 14-6. Heights tied the score 14-14, and the fourth quarter was a battle for the end zone. With one minute and 29 seconds left on the clock, Kokomo made the final score 20-14.

According to Johnson, he believes what has made the team so successful every year of P.A.L. was the kids’ desire to play and work hard. He told the players no one will give them anything in life; they have to go out and earn it for themselves. That way no one can take it away from them. In his 21 years of coaching, Johnson said this group has been one of his best he’s ever coached, and not just for their stats.

“I’m proud of these guys, but I’m going to miss them after I leave them after this year. They go off to the school after this. Nice group of kids, they obey. I enjoy it. I love to do it for the kids though,” Johnson said.

The P.A.L. sixth-grade team consisted of 28 kids this year, fluctuating between 26 and 30 throughout the four years. The kids practiced three times a week, participating in fundamental drills such as learning where to hold the head and arms when tackling, hand-off drills for running backs and quarterbacks, and numerous defensive techniques.

Along with learning about the game of football, Johnson and his coaches tried to teach the kids the importance of respect, honesty, and discipline. Every practice, the coaches yelled, ”DDD!” and the players repeated it back. The acronym stood for “decision, devotion, discipline,” which was what the kids will carry on with them in life, according to Johnson.

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BREAK — Kokomo P.A.L. coach Dennis Morgan provides water to Haven Gunderson, the only girl on the team.

Education is number one in the league, Johnson said. He and the other coaches check the players’ grades as soon as they come out, visiting all the local schools and ensuring the kids are maintaining good academics. Occasionally, Johnson will have a tutor come out to the field to help any of the players with homework who need it.

To enforce discipline on getting good grades, Johnson had any player with unsatisfactory grades complete running and bear-crawl drills during practice instead of participating with the rest of the team. This strategy seemed to work.

“Every kid on there has decent grades because they don’t want to go through it. If you really want to be out here, you’ll take care of this problem,” Johnson said.

Johnson looks forward to the future of Kokomo P.A.L. He anticipates putting in eight more years of coaching before he retires, but he hopes the program will continue for years to come.

“I love the kids. As long as the good Lord keeps me breathing right here, I think I’m going to deal with it for a little bit. I’m going to try to put in 30 years and see what more I can do with it,” Johnson said.

Johnson thanked his assistant coaches, team moms, and parents for all their support this season.