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Midgets fight for perfect 10

Jr. Hillmen team remains undefeated
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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The Placer Jr. Hillmen Midgets may be 6-0, but they play with the hunger of a team that’s 0-0. Eighth grader Jacob Capra, a right tackle for the Jr. Hillman Midgets, said that modest approach has gotten them through a few tough games. Not slipping into an overconfident mentality is one thing the Hillmen have tried to avoid, according to Capra. In their last game against Woodland, a pep talk at halftime helped them come back after falling behind. “They told us we are 5-0 and if we keep on playing like we are 5-0, we’ll be 5-1,” Capra said. “If we play with overconfidence, we are going to be 5-1.” Capra, a first year football player, said he tempers those words of wisdom with celebrating the joy of success. Beating the often elusive Granite Bay Jr. Grizzlies was one of the sweetest of them all. “I think it feels great because everyone continues to do their job. I enjoy that I have coaches that make it more fun than serious,” Capra said. “I think that was a key aspect of playing for me.” Jr. Hillmen Midgets coach Bill Mispley agrees that having fun is paramount in youth leagues. “I just try to make sure to stay about having fun,” Mispley said. “The youth thing is the last time they are going to get to have a whole extra lot of fun.” Mispley graduated from Placer in 1981, but said he was never a prolific player himself. Now he enjoys being able to let players try a variety of positions if they want to. After transitioning to the high school level those opportunities are few and far between. The Jr. Midgets also get taught the value of teamwork. A solid foundation in Placer’s favored Wing-T Offense should help them transition to playing at Placer next year, according to Mispley. “We have not a larger-size line, but a very quick line. They are really good at running the Wing-T,” Mispley said. “This Placer group hasn’t had a lot of success. This year they’ve added some new kids.” His son, Riley Mispley, has racked up 18 touchdowns this year. Quarterback Marcus Ante has been a force, according to Mispley. The Jr. Hillmen Midgets’ Cinderella story can also be attributed to the hard work of players like E.V. Cain eighth grader Michael Downen and Colin Stangland, according to Mispley. “They’ll do well in high school,” Mispley said. “Probably one of our best linemen is Michael Dowen. That is one of the hardest working kids I have ever met. Even in practice he is a workaholic.” This is Downen’s third year in the program. Capra said Downen, a linebacker and tight end, stands out as a leader on the team, calling stretches at practice and working his hardest. “One of my basketball coaches told me, ‘someone out there is working harder than you.’ I like to win, so that always helps, too,” Downen said. “This year the whole team works really hard.” Downen said he can always count on teammates like Brian McCracken and Marcus Quintanilla to lift him up when the going gets tough. Coming up, Mispley said fans could look forward to the Jr. Hillmen’s bout with the Jr. Bruins. Before taking the reigns of the Jr. Hillmen Midgets this year, Mispley was their coach. That means many of Bear River’s current players were coached by Mispley in past years. He said he looks forward to seeing his new and former players take the field together. Downen said he hopes his hard work will pay off in a big way. “I really want to go 10-0,” Downen said. “I want to get to championships.” The Jr. Hillmen Midgets square off against the Jr. Bruins at 5 p.m. on Oct. 22 at Bear River. Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.