At 13 years old, Steven Herzig has been around tackle football long enough to know he loves the game.
Not only is it a whole lot of fun but it allows him to put his quick feet and rapid-fire reflexes to work as a defensive end, covering receivers and breaking up passing plays.
Just dont ask him to play centre.
Football is a game for kids of all shapes and sizes and Herzig is a perfect example of that. At four-foot-five and 65 pounds, hes less than half the size of some of his 12- and 13-year-old peers. That hasnt stopped him from excelling at his position playing for the junior bantam Prince George Axemen and as a Grade 8 student for the Prince George Polars junior high school team.
I just enjoy it, its more of a challenge for me, said Herzig, now in his fourth season in the Prince George Minor Football Association. You just have to be fast and when theyre about to hit you, spin around them.
Football can be a rough game and when Herzig needs protection on the field he can always turn to the Axemen guards. Justa Monk is five-foot-11, 190-pounds, while Travis Huartson stands five-foot-eight and weighs 200 pounds.
For 40 years, the PGMFA has been giving players of all sizes and abilities a place to play and on Saturday the league celebrated its history with a full slate of games in atom, peewee and junior bantam divisions, followed by a high school doubleheader at Masich Place Stadium.
Colburn Pearce, the 13-year-old son of junior bantam Axemen coach Matt Pearce, started at running back for the Axemen. He scored three touchdowns against the Vanderhoof Vikings before the end of the first half, flashing some of the same moves and instincts that made his dad Matt famous as fullback with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
It is a bit of deja vu, I think I started playing community football in Prince George shortly after it began, said Matt Pearce
There was no high school football at the time so thats what it was. Now weve got kids from six to 17 playing here and lots of them and its just fantastic to see how much its built even in the last couple years.
Pearce played in three Grey Cup games with Winnipeg, winning in 1990, and he says without minor football that never would have happened.
Mike Rositano, head coach of the Duchess Park Condors, started playing in the PGMFA at age 13 and has been involved as a football coach for 22 years. His efforts behind the scenes were key in reviving Prince George high school football in 2004. Rositano has seen what minor football in the city has done to develop a steady stream of junior players and how it prepared current CIS star running backs Jordan Botel (Mount Allison University) and Brandon
Deschamps (UBC) for the CIS level.
Ive had some great coaches growing up, like Tony Reynolds, who was like a big brother to me, and thats where I got my passion for the game, said Rositano. Its a sport where it doesnt matter how big you are or how small you are, you have a place on the field. Its the best sport out there where you see everybodys part of it. You put your big kids on the line and put your fast kids on the outside and you run the ball.