Football at the academy without the Midshipmen

6 youth football championships are played on Annapolis field

November 28, 2007|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special to the Sun

Tailgate parties were set up throughout the parking lots as families and friends prepared to cheer on their teams.

Messages were scrawled on car windows, and fans walking through the parking lots and concourse of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis were chattering about the next game.

The scene looked like a typical football Saturday at Navy. The only things missing were the Midshipmen.

The Anne Arundel Youth Football Association held its annual County Championship Day on Navy's home field Saturday, a six-game event that lasted from early morning until well after dark.

Many fans treated the event like a college or professional football game.

Fans sat in the stands cheering just as loudly as if Navy players were on the field, yelling encouragement for the children, who looked into the stands on a regular basis.

Tailgate parties

There were a large number of tailgate parties for fans and friends.

Bangert family members were there to enjoy themselves before, between and after the games.

Two Bangert children were playing for the Pasadena Chargers, which had teams in four of the six championships, and the family was treating it like a special event.

The family brought a camping grill and placed it in a parking space to cook hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken. They also brought along other essentials such as cake and doughnuts and drinks, not seeming to mind the cold temperatures (about 40 degrees) and swirling winds in the parking lot near the entrance. They arrived about 7:45 a.m. before the day's first game at 8 a.m. and were going strong about six hours later.

"We're treating it like Navy football," said a smiling Elizabeth Bangert.

It looked like Navy football in other ways, especially when watching what happened on the field. Players were introduced and ran out from the dressing room, waving to the cheering crowd like the Midshipmen do and then joining their teams on the sidelines.

The scoreboard also made it seem like a big-time event. Each team name was listed, along with the score, time of the game and other key details such as the downs and how many yards were needed for a first down.

Fans and players clearly enjoyed how the scoreboard videos at both ends of the stadium came into play.

The video regularly showed a replay before the next play of the game, much like at a major college or professional game, and fans constantly turned to watch it.

Parents in the stands were bursting with pride.

Sonny Edwards' son, Christian, had played in the championship twice before, but he enjoyed the aura of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and seeing his son on the field.

Edwards was grinning as his son's Gambrills Odenton Recreation Council Wildcats 110-pound team was being introduced to the crowd.

"This is great." Edwards said. "I just love it. My son was very excited, and he couldn't sleep last night. He got up at 6 this morning to watch old game tapes."

Many players were so excited that they arrived at the stadium well ahead of the time they needed to get onto the field.

Garry Cropper plays for the Pasadena Chargers' 13 unlimited team. He's an eighth-grader at Old Mill Middle School.

His team wasn't scheduled to play until 6 p.m., but Cropper was in uniform and making his way through the stands with teammates and friends about 2:30 p.m., trying to work off nervous excitement.

"We've got a tailgate party in the parking lot," he said with a smile. "I've never played here before, and I can't wait. I'm real nervous, but it's going to be fun. Everybody's going to be watching us."

This is the football association's big day each season.

The league holds a series of championship games for a smaller league at a local high school, but this group gets to play at the Navy stadium.

Possible next venue

The winners gain a chance to play in a state tournament that could land them another big game in another big place - M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens.

But there was no question how much this day meant to those at Navy on Saturday. This is the second year that the association has played at Navy, and it's become a big hit.

"Hopefully, it's a day the kids will never forget," said Joshua Roach, athletics supervisor for the county Department of Recreation and Parks. "I was there all day, and I had a great time. I enjoyed watching all the games. I could see everyone enjoying themselves and showing good sportsmanship."

Gambrills Odenton Recreation Council won three championships (80, 100 and 110) while Pasadena won two (13 unlimited and 90), and Edgewater (125) won one title.

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