BY JACE PONDER
Participants in city league football get a surprise this week when recreation director Bret Bentz gave out tickets to tonight’s New Orleans Saints game.
Bentz said he received about 150 tickets for being a member of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Football League, which the city joined for the first time this season.
When he began calling families with the good news, he said he got shocked and excited reactions.
Bentz shared one message with the Gazebo Gazette from a single mother with several children in the city league.
“I just want to let you know how excited I am to be able to bring my boys to the Saints game which has been a dream of theirs,” she wrote. “I would never be able to afford the such an opportunity for my boys who have been begging to go to a Saints game since they could talk. So again thank you so very much.”
The professional game will serve as inspiration for the kids before the city league season gets underway on Saturday at the third annual Pirate Day Fundamentals Camp, Bentz said.
About 80 football players and 25 cheerleaders will spend the day meeting fellow players and coaches while learning new skills, including tackling techniques which help prevent head injuries.
Bentz said each age group will have a single team to represent the city as the Pass Christian Raiders.
Each age group will have four coaches, all of who are certified to coach and have taken online safety programs.
All the age groups will play other teams in the western conference of the league which consists of Lyman, D’Iberville, Lizana, Bay St. Louis, Vancleave, St. Martin, East Central and Saucier.
Teams with the best records go on to the playoffs for the Gulf Coast Superbowl.
The first games are scheduled for September 13.
The Raiders name was chosen after talking with coaches about which professional team was closest to the Pirate mascot. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were discussed before being eliminated since they compete in the same division as the New Orleans Saints, he said.
The Raiders also has a personal connection to Bentz. As a youth, he played in a Raiders jersey on a team coached by his father and former recreation director Robbie Bentz. Several players from that team went on to compete in college, he said.
Bentz said he is excited for the program and sees future growth, especially with a new field slated for construction on Fleitas Avenue.
“When the new field is built, there won’t be another program like Pass Christian on the Coast. We’ll have our scoreboard up and our flags flying,” he said. “When I took this job, I envisioned a great program and it’ll take a lot of steps to get there. We have a motto: Small town, big dreams.”