A Super Bowl, of sorts, for kids

AAYFA joins three other programs to create the Maryland Youth Football championship

November 01, 2006|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,Special to The Sun

Some Anne Arundel Youth Football Association teams will have longer seasons this fall - and they couldn't be happier.

The AAYFA is joining with three other football programs in the state to create the initial Maryland Youth Football championship, to be held Dec. 2, probably at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

AAYFA president Rick Peacock met football league presidents from Harford-Baltimore, Carroll and Howard counties 10 days ago to seal the deal that had been coming together for several months.

Six games will be played to accommodate the leagues' differing divisions in terms of weight, size and age.

Peacock, who coaches in the Gambrills-Odenton Recreation Council's program, agreed that a chance to play in a competitive state tournament should draw more players.

"It's a sense of pride; it's a sense of community, and it's a sense of county," he said.

The state tournament will start after each league finishes its own competition. AAYFA, with more than 4,000 players ages 6 to 15, has one more week of regular season play, set for Saturday, before the county playoffs start. They wrap up on Nov. 25.

For the state playoffs, the first round of a "final four" takes place in Howard County. Carroll and Harford-Baltimore will meet in semifinal games on Nov. 25. AAYFA and Howard County play Nov. 28 in the other round of semifinal games.

The championship games will follow, with organizers negotiating the final details to play at the Baltimore Ravens stadium. A local high school would serve as the back-up spot. Those details also are being finalized now.

"I think it will open up new channels for the kids and new exposures and opportunities," said AAYFA board member Dave Marcus, also the president of the Brooklyn Park Broncos. "I think it will give us a view of how we're doing outside of Anne Arundel County, and it will show what kind of teaching we're giving the kids."

Peacock said they're hoping this will be the first step en route to a much bigger competition.

The assistant director of national programs at USA Football, Peacock said 15 leagues in Maryland aren't affiliated with the competing Pop Warner program.

Pop Warner has state, regional and even national tournaments, something that's long been a drawing point for that program.

Peacock said expanding the state tournament will help the non-Pop Warner programs. They'd like to have a tournament similar to the one run by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association each year for high schools.

In that competition, all high schools in the state are split into four classes based upon size. Four regions within each class have four teams qualify for post-season play based upon a point system. Those teams that win each region make the state final four, which leads to the championship.

"We're going to expand it out everywhere," Peacock said. "I'm excited about the opportunity to work with the other guys from the other leagues and have a positive impact on the sport in the state. It just brings another element to the game."

There's still many details to be worked out. This tournament still lacks a name - and might not get one this year. In addition, after this year, organizers have to draw in other state's other programs, which will take time and effort.

The work for next year and the possible expansion will start in February, when a large meeting will convene at the Ravens practice facility in Owings Mills.

But state competition would likely be beneficial for all programs. AAYFA is the state's second biggest football program, behind Harford-Baltimore, which has 6,500 after an aggressive push to expand in recent years.

"We're trying to branch out any way to see where we stand in terms of things that we're teaching," Marcus said. "I really believe that will all the kids we have, it would open other doors and make our league even stronger by bringing more kids in."

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