County teams just glad to be there

At Play

Youth football playoff losses don't overshadow chance to play at Ravens' stadium

December 06, 2006|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special to The Sun

Ivan Quinones stood on the sidelines at M&T Bank Stadium and couldn't believe what he saw.

Standing on the same side of the field where coach Brian Billick and his Baltimore Ravens play their home games, Quinones looked wide-eyed Saturday at the team's "Ring of Honor," the statue of Johnny Unitas, the huge scoreboard and all the football going on.

"I felt like a kid," he said.

Commissioner of Severn Athletic Club football, he watched the Seminoles 6- to 8-year-old team suffer a 13-6 loss to Middle River in the championship game of the Maryland Youth Invitational Football Championship tournament.

The other Anne Arundel team to make it to the final game, Gambrills-Odenton Recreation Council's 9- to 11-year-olds, fell to Middle River, 32-0.

Despite the losses, Anne Arundel football coaches said that just getting a chance to play on the field used by their favorite NFL team was special.

"To be able to experience being on the same field as a lot of great football players and to convey that to the kids, and how special a moment it is for them, was just great," Quinones said.

That might have been symbolized by the player on the Columbia Ravens team who perfectly imitated the pregame dance that Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis loves to do while coming out of the tunnel, to the same music.

This was the first year for the tournament, which included teams from Harford/Baltimore, Central Maryland, Carroll County and Anne Arundel. There were semifinal games earlier in the week in most of the age groups, while some teams moved right from their league finals to this tournament's championship.

The Anne Arundel Youth Football Association teams were at a disadvantage throughout this tournament. While the county's teams set up their leagues based on weight, others go with age. Age was also the factor in the tournament.

AAYFA Commissioner Rick Peacock said the AAYFA teams wound up having a number of players 10 to 20 pounds lighter and two years younger than opponents. They knew this was going to happen, and that it would hurt them.

"We just wanted to be a part of this," Peacock said. "We did well, and we'll adjust to that next year."

Peacock said next year's tournament will be different. Organizers are trying to get all 19 youth leagues to participate and to set up their leagues the same way to make things fair.

"We've talked to most of them, and most of them are very interested in being in the state tournament and being on the same page," Peacock said.

Quinones is hopeful that the bigger tournament will help youth football grow in Maryland.

"I think that we have a golden opportunity here to really put the state of Maryland on the football map, which we're not on right now," Quinones said. "We're widely considered a basketball state or a lacrosse state. We now have a very real chance to change how the landscape is viewed."

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