— Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the name of the local association.
By BRIAN SMITH
It’s not often you find “Outlaws” on the right side of the law.
The Weatherford Outlaws, a youth football team for 7 year olds playing in the first-year Weatherford Pee Wee Football League, is being held out of the Northwest Texas Youth Football Association postseason later this month because of an incident last Monday involving parents from Weatherford and Crowley. The Crowley team has also been banned from post season.
Crowley parents reportedly attacked a Weatherford family because their 8-year-old son plays on the tackle 7U team.
WPFL Vice President Chris Frank said because the Weatherford league is in its first year and to ensure the team had enough players, three 8 year olds were brought onto the team. Frank said it was for this year only, and said the three players, who supplied birth certificates, were approved by the Northwest YFA.
“It was something the board had known about the entire year,” Frank said. “My thought it they had heard enough griping from other parents about what was happening, even though they approved it, and decided not letting the team into the playoffs was a way out.”
The Weatherford team Friday afternoon retained attorney Reed Wainwright to represent them.
"What we're trying to determine from the board is exactly the process used to find the Weatherford players guilty of improper conduct," Wainwright said. "The way the board's own code of conduct and ethics was written, the penalty was too harsh."
Northwest Texas Youth Football Association President John Kracy said Friday that because of the threat of litigation he had no comment in the matter.
Along with Weatherford and Crowley, teams from Granbury, Azle and Burleson take part in the Northwest YFA. Smith and Frank said the issue of the 8-year-old players was a problem all season, with parents making comments, but said it was nothing to the extent of Monday’s incident in Crowley.
The incident began in the third quarter with Weatherford leading 14-0. According to WPFL president and Outlaws Coach Mike Smith, he began to see problems at halftime of the game with Crowley parents yelling at the Weatherford players. He said he asked the director on duty, an off-duty Benbrook police officer, to put a stop to it.
Early in the third quarter, a Crowley kid stayed on top of a Weatherford player who was trying to get up after a play, Smith said. The referees reportedly told the Crowley coaches to let the kids play and to quit antagonizing the issue.
“One of the Crowley coaches then said for his kids to start biting and kicking,” Smith said. “The referees told the coaches they couldn’t say that and were told he could say what he wanted to his players. Referees started throwing flags and the game was called.”
Smith said he was told to put his players in an area so they and the parents could get out safely while the Crowley coach was dealt with. One Crowley family apparently had other ideas.
“It was one isolated incident, not the parking lot brawl it was being made out to be. This is about three instigators from one family going after another family while we were on the way to our cars,” Smith said. “The (Crowley) mother kept asking the kid how old he was and the Weatherford mom just kept telling her kids not to respond, that we don’t talk to strangers. That sort of thing.”
Once other families saw what was going on between the two families, however, they came in to assist, making the scene seem larger than it really was. One Weatherford fan had his thumb severely bitten, Smith said, nearly tearing it off, and was treated at the scene.
Smith and Frank attended a Wednesday night board meeting, expecting to be able to give their side of the story. Both men said the decision to keep the Outlaws out of the playoffs had been made before the meeting even started.
“The board apologized for what happened, said Weatherford had done nothing wrong, but they wanted to set an example so this type of thing doesn’t happen again,” Frank said. “If we’re banned, we’re banned. Parents and coaches should know right from wrong. It’s not right to punish kids for the actions of adults.”
The Outlaws’ last game was Saturday, which puzzles Smith.
“Why are they allowing us to play our last regular season game, but holding us out of the playoffs?” Smith said. “We’re not going to lay down and take this.”
“We want the public to know we’re going to defend our town and the kids,” Frank said. “We’re not going lay down and take this.”