If there is a direct correlation between cheer-pom power and success on the gridiron, Deer Creek Middle School’s seventh- and eighth-grade football teams will be perennial championship contenders.

Under a new program, the school has dramatically increased the number of cheer-pom squad members.

At the same time, the middle school is increasing its emphasis on junior varsity football this season, playing a longer schedule.

Seventy girls participate in cheer-pom activities at the middle school. There is a seventh-grade squad and an eighth-grade squad, subdivided into squads that perform during an assigned quarter.

Every girl who tries out makes the squad, said Toni Jones, middle school principal. She said the concept pays dividends both on the field and off.

“Our idea at Deer Creek Middle School is for all students to feel important, and for all student athletes to have the time to develop into their full potential as an athlete,” Jones said. “Our program is continuing to grow, and it gets better with each sport and season.”

With such a large cheer-pom squad, there’s room for girls at all skill levels.

The program develops flyers, gymnasts, dancers and girls with no previous cheer or pom experience.

Elise Roberts, an eighth-grader, was involved with gymnastics for eight years before joining the cheer squad, which produced six All-Americans this summer.

“I think it’s a good chance for everybody to get to participate in something like this,” Roberts said. “In high school they cut and not everybody gets a chance to do something they want to do.”

Jasmine Flowers, an eighth-grader on the dance team, said she likes being able to help motivate the fans in the stands and the players on the field.

Football is very competitive, and being able to have a part in success is rewarding, Flowers said.

The middle school bought new junior varsity softball uniforms this year, new junior varsity basketball uniforms last year, and made sure there was ample JV football equipment this year.

It’s not uncommon for second string, “B,” or JV programs to have old T-shirts for uniforms while the varsity gets new equipment, Jones said.

The Deer Creek Enrichment Foundation outfitted the middle school gym with new sound equipment.

The school also made a commitment to making sure the junior varsity student athletes have equal equipment and strong coaching, Jones said.

Coaches Jim Sutton, Marc Pense, Andy Howington and Tim Draper have guided the middle school’s football teams to 4-1 records. With the teams playing regular games, finding same-level opponents has been a challenge.

“We’re trying to set the bar,” Sutton said.

Sutton said he is encouraged by the high level of effort he has seen from his players.

(Education reporter Mark Schlachtenhaufen may be reached via e-mail at ms@edmondsun.com.)

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