Uniformed police officers and some in street clothes were at the game.
By SEAN BARRON
YOUNGSTOWN -- Poor weather conditions seemed to be on Tracie Mastorio's mind more than whether her children would be safe participating in a peewee football game that had been moved to another location largely because of a recent shooting in the city.
Mastorio's two daughters, Kaylee Walker, 6, and Kiara Walker, 7, were excited about being cheerleaders for the Wilson Little Red Men, who played three games Saturday against the Austintown Little Falcons at Ipe Field on Midlothian Boulevard. Also looking forward to taking the field was her son, 12-year-old Christian Walker, who plays center for the Little Red Men.
"This new venue keeps their minds off something like that," Mastorio said, referring to the Aug. 19 shooting death of a Youngstown man in front of hundreds of children and adults at the former South High School stadium. "They're looking forward to the season."
Mastorio added that she has talked to her children about the shooting that occurred two weeks ago and that they're aware of what happened. Nevertheless, she continued, the youngsters' excitement about being on the field outweighed any fear the three might have.
Some other parents seemed to have similar feelings as those of Mastorio. Many braved persistent light rain and temperatures in the low 60s to root for their youngsters while several uniformed officers from the Youngstown Police Department and some in street clothes stood by.
The peewee contest, with 7- and 8-year-old boys, was the first of three games the two teams played, with the Little Falcons winning 6-0 on a Michael Winford Jr. touchdown. The second game had the kids ages 9 and 10 competing against one another; the final contest saw the 11- and 12-year-olds facing off.
It took reassurance and city representatives and others working together to persuade some parents not to pull their children from the team, which is part of the Northeastern Ohio Youth Football League, explained Juan Serrano, president of the Little Red Men. After the shooting, some teams were contemplating refusing to play those in the league, he added.
The kids on the teams worked hard and deserve to have a safe place to play, Serrano said, so after meetings with Mayor Jay Williams and others, Ipe Field was selected as the site for this season's games. The field's easy access to Interstate 680 also makes it attractive, he added.
"I think right now everyone's more comfortable with this area and that they feel safer," he said.
Injured player honored
While many eyes were on the football field, a highlight took place after all the tackles and runs had been completed.
On Aug. 23, 10-year-old Aaron Jenkins of Austintown, a running back for the Little Falcons, suffered a broken neck during a scrimmage practice and is sidelined for the remainder of the season. As a result, Aaron was to receive a game ball, with players' and coaches' signatures, from his team's opponents, and those on his team wore stickers on their helmets containing Aaron's uniform number.
Despite his injury, Aaron continued to practice and play for a week, said his mother, Tawnya Jenkins.
For his part, Aaron said he's already thinking about playing next year. Saturday was Aaron's 10th birthday.