Many were skeptical, to say the least, when small-town football programs created their own league last season. How could these programs pull away from the larger leagues and manage to survive? Well not only was it possible to survive the change, but the West Central Football League is also thriving. Starting off as a mere idea, the concept has taken off giving other small programs the desire to either join the WCFL or start up their own small school league.
With the addition of Greenland, West Fork, and Lavaca to the already loaded conference consisting of Mansfield, Hackett, Magazine, JC Westside, Cedarville, and Mountainburg the WCFL is small school football at it’s finest. With evenly matched programs in talent and size, competitiveness showed to be at an all-time high in 2019. A perfect example of how even these programs are, the league revamped their Playoff system and upped the bracket to 6 teams for each grade level. With a nine-team league that consists of two grade levels, surely that’d leave at least three programs out of the loop right? Wrong!
The teams were so evenly matched in 2019 that all nine programs had at least one team representing them in the WCFL Playoffs. Mansfield, Mountainburg, Hackett, Lavaca, Cedarville, and JC Westside made the Playoffs in the 3rd and 4th grade level while Magazine, Mansfield, Lavaca, Hackett, Greenland, and West Fork were represented on the 5th and 6th grade level.
WCFL President Doug Powell from Magazine gave his thoughts on this newly created league. “As I watched the recent Championship games, I was happy with what we’ve created in the last two years. My thought was, where would we be if the original teams had not been willing to take a chance and gamble on creating this league. In two years, programs have flourished and numbers have increased. Three programs have now experienced winning and even the ultimate goal which is winning a Championship like Mansfield, Hackett, and Magazine have done. Both are equally important to the growth of the program in my opinion.”
“Mountainburg struggled last year with numbers and didn’t win a game. Fast forward to this year and their 3rd and 4th grade team played for the Championship. The league had multiple programs in the playoffs this year with opportunities to win a big game. We all have things to improve on and I believe these things will help achieve each of our goals. Next year is a new year providing new opportunities for programs to learn how to win. As balanced as our league is, I see opportunities for every program to reach the Playoffs and Championship games going forward.”
Mansfield Representative and WCFL Secretary Adam Hecox explained, “Many of these programs caught some backlash in the beginning and were told they wouldn’t make it creating a new league. Some even said there weren’t enough competitive teams in small schools and the programs would never get any better playing so many other so-called weak teams. But we all felt it was necessary for all of the programs to take that chance so that they could save Little League football in their town(s). We had some success last season as a league, but no one could’ve imagined this kind of league-wide success by only the second season. Every program now has the hunger and competitiveness they used to have in the past. The players know every time they step onto the field that they have a chance to win against their opponent. Teams are growing in numbers and talent because of that confidence. I think with every passing year in the WCFL, we’ll see our town’s football programs drastically improve from Little League all the way to the High School level.”
The league board is seeing what they hoped for all along. Numbers on the teams are growing and kids are getting more interested in playing. Fans are more abundant in the stands because not only are their kids not playing teams with a 60 player roster, but they’re playing competitively and holding their own. Communities are starting to see a change in how Little League football is perceived in their town as their programs grow. High school coaches and players are getting more and more involved with the teams and are enjoying the success that their future high school players are having. The WCFL has been the shot in the arm that small school football needed to get back on its feet. Congratulations to all programs involved and here’s to the 2020 WCFL Season.