Pee Wee football kicks off
The league is rich in history and talent.
By MARK MILLER
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Many of its players have gone on to have outstanding high school and college careers, while some have played professional football.
And when the Volney Rogers Pee Wee Football League's 68th season starts Saturday at Bailey Park, South High and Rayen High fields at 10 a.m., 1,000 boys will be participating.
Breaking it down: There are eight teams each in three divisions with boys 6-9 years-old in the 100-pound class, 10-11 year-olds at 115 and 11-13 year-olds at 135.
The teams are Eastside Broncos, Eastside Titans, Northside Knights, Rising Star Disciples, Mt. Calvary Sons of Thunder, True Vine Saints, New Bethel Braves and the Tabernacle Penguins.
Most of the teams are sponsored by religious organizations, with a few having private sponsors.
VRFL president Rick Gladden, who is coach of the defending 115-pound champion Disciples (8-1), said, "The lessons learned by the boys who have played midget football have had an impact on their lives and the communities where they lived.
"All the league's players learn the value of good sportsmanship, team work and pride.
"It shows kids a better way of spending their time at things they should be doing rather than getting involved in drugs and crime.
"The league is an opportunity for the boys of the Mahoning Valley to showcase their talent and act as a stepping stone towards rebuilding the image of Youngstown and its youth," said Gladden.
Notables: Some of the players who have gone on to play pro ball are Ron Jaworski, who now works for ESPN, Cliff Stoudt, Sloko Gill and Larry Jordon.
Gladden's Disciples are rated the team to beat at the 115-pound level. The Eastside Titans are the team to beat at 100 pounds.
Brandon Wylie, linebacker for the defending 135-pound champion Disciples (9-0), and quarterback Sir Charles of the Tabernacle Penguins look like future stars, said Gladden.
In the fall of 1933, the Westside Bulldogs' team at 80 pounds was the first undefeated team (8-0) in Volney Rogers football history. The league began as touch football.
"It's been 68 years since the first championship game was played, and football, just like the world, has changed drastically," said Gladden.
"Most of the original VRFL players are long since gone, but their dreams of glory still live on in the souls of those young men who continue to dream big and play hard with the same heart of all those who came before them."
Perfect record: Youngstown 2nd Ward Councilman Rufus Hudson coached the 1977-79 McGuffey Center teams that went all three seasons undefeated and unscored upon.
A member of that team, Vershindle Foster now coaches the Rising Star Disciples. Many of the coaches in the league are former players.
Other VRFL officers are Charles Peterson, vice president; Michelle Clarett, commissioner; Vershindle Foster, deputy commissioner and Trinette Raine, treasurer.
When the season kicks off Saturday, the Broncos will battle the Disciples at Bailey Park Nick Johnson field; the Knights will go against the Penguins at Rayen; and the Sons of Thunder will take on the Braves at South. The Titans face the Saints at South at 1 p.m.
Following seven weeks of competition, the top six teams advance to the playoffs scheduled for Oct. 6.