Steve Mitcheltree was attending a cookout at a friend's house some back in 1998 when he was introduced to Cliff Luber, a veteran coach with the Gambrills-Odenton Recreation Council football program.
That meeting led to Mitcheltree becoming an assistant coach for Luber and 17 years later he is still coaching while also overseeing an exciting new event on the youth football landscape.
Mitcheltree is the founder and lead organizer for the All Pro Team Sports Championships, which grew out of a bi-county initiative between Anne Arundel County and Calvert County. That tournament brings together champions from four different organizations — Anne Arundel Youth Football Association, Maryland Youth Football Alliance, Upper Chesapeake Youth Football League and Southern Maryland Youth Football Alliance.
"It was the result of leaders within those organizations putting their heads together to create a true state tournament," said Mitcheltree, who originally developed the Bi-County Championships in conjunction with Bill Saunders of the Prince Frederick Eagles. "This is the closest thing we have in Maryland to a youth state championship that is equal and competitive."
Last year's All Pro Team Sports State Championship featured 21 total games with seven weight classes at the A, B and C divisions. So popular has the event become that other youth football organizations around the region are thinking about changing their age and weight class structures to match those of the aforementioned in order to gain entrance into the tourney.
Mitcheltree's 17 years of volunteer work with GORC along with his tireless efforts to create the All Pro Team Sports State Tournament will be recognized on Thursday night when he is presented the Vince DePasquale Award for Service to Youth Football by the Touchdown Club of Annapolis.
Named in honor of longtime AAYFA president Vince DePasquale, the award recognizes longtime, dedicated and exemplary service to youth football in Anne Arundel County.
Mitcheltree readily admits the All Pro Team Sports Championship tournament was created as an alternative to the Maryland Youth Football Championships, which conducts its finals at M&T Bank Stadium. That event is operated by a for-profit organization that charges teams $400 to participate.
"Anne Arundel County teams struggled in that tournament because it wasn't apples and apples. Our teams were going against teams with older and bigger players," Mitcheltree said. "This tournament has really taken off and we have received great feedback about how it is run. I really could see this thing growing quite a bit."
All Pro Team Sports, a uniform supply company owned by Mike Lotocki and Steve Bottcher, agreed to serve as title sponsor and covers the costs of awards and field rentals along with commemorative medals and T-shirts.
"I can't thank Steve and Mike enough for putting the All Pro name and support behind this event," Mitcheltree said.
Mitcheltree teamed with Luber to lead a GORC contingent that captured seven county championships. He then joined forces with head coach Brian Young to direct a different Wildcats team that has garnered four county championships with a pair of runner-up finishes.
The Bowie resident undertook a greater responsibility with formation of the Bi-County Championship games between Anne Arundel County and Calvert County. That fledgling event resonated with other regions and blossomed into the All-Pro Team Sports State Championships.
"Steve is deserving of the DePasquale Award not only because of his dedication to the GORC football program for a decade and a half, but even more so because he has been the driving force in the development of a state championship tournament," AAYFA vice president Mark Gibson said. "Through Steve's steadfast guidance as Director of the All Pro Team Sports-sponsored event, that true championship structure has now grown to include organizations from four counties and rivals the so-called 'state championship event run by a for-profit organization near Baltimore."
Mitcheltree also serves as Boys Lacrosse Commissioner for GORC while coaching boys and girls basketball in the winter. Mitcheltree is a 1987 graduate of Surrattsville High, where he played football.