Membership is up in the Anne Arundel Youth Football Association, butsecond-year president Vince DePasquale is hoping points will be downas the organization kicks off its 27th season next weekend.
The AAYFA has added one new organization, the Brooklyn Park Broncos, to bring its total to 21 teams and dramatically has expanded its 135-poundcircuit from 12 to 17 teams.
Eighty-eight teams will participate in the four age/weight classes: 9-10/75 pounds (20 teams); 9-11/95 pounds (22 "A" teams and 4 "B"); 11-13/115 pounds (21 "A" and 4 "B") and the 13-15/135 pounds (17 teams).
While the numbers are up in terms of teams, the AAYFA has adopted a first-time slaughter rule to keep points down.
The rule says that any team down by 22 points or more has the option of receiving a kickoff or starting at its own 45 when it takes its offensive turn.
DePasquale said after a kick return the receiving team still can claim the ball at the 45 if not satisfied with the return. If the losing team stops the team ahead by 22 or more deep in the loser's territory, the losing team can take the ball at that spot or move to the45.
"The association voted, 18-3, for the slaughter rule so that teams would not be overmatched, and because, frankly, we have some coaches who can be real jerks and continue running up scores and kicking butt," said DePasquale, who is also junior varsity football coach at St. Mary's High in Annapolis.
"We don't want that and want to teach the kids the right things. We needed a slaughter rule, and now wehave one."
As for the influx of bodies into the 135-pound class, DePasquale attributes that to the philosophies of some local high schools not to cut junior varsity players. The AAYFA president said a lot of smaller, inexperienced kids don't get a chance to play at the JVlevel because simply too many kids are on the team.
DePasquale sees the 135-pound league as a healthy alternative.
"Our biggest concern is that a lot of schools don't cut on JV and the smaller kids who haven't played the game much end up being practice meat," said DePasquale.
"Why not trim down the size of the JVs and let those otherkids get experience in our 135-pound league. I think that is happening as you will notice by the 17 teams."
DePasquale said most of the youth football organizations employ the offensive and defensive systems run by their local high schools and not playing JV until the sophomore year is not going to hurt.
"There is no way these high school systems are so sophisticated that they can't be run by the community teams," he said. "So, why should high school JVs keep 60 kids whensome could play 135."
One organization that will not carry a 135-pound team is the new Brooklyn Park Broncos. The Broncos, who will play on the well-manicured field at the old Brooklyn Park High School, will field 75-, 95- and 115-pound squads in their inaugural campaign.
The organization was born when Warren Rice and Danny Mangum decided to leave the Andover Apaches after nearly a decade to branch out on their own. Rice is president of the Broncos and its 115-pound head coach.
Other ex-Apache coaches who have moved over to the Broncos include: David Marcus, head coach 75-pounders, and Dan Ray, 95-pound coach. Ray was president of the AAYFA for about 10 years and the manDePasquale succeeded.
Returning to coaching last year, Ray led the Apaches to the county 135-pound championship. With the Broncos not fielding a 135 the first year, Ray took the 95 instead.
Another ex-Apache, Donna LaFoille, heads up the cheerleaders.
To kick off their first season, the Broncos have planned a big opening day for Saturday. Most teams will open Saturday, but some with lights will open theseason Friday night.
The Broncos will start in style with a parade set for noon to start at Brooklyn Park Elementary School and run through the community to Hammonds Lane down to the old high school field. It should be a sea of royal blue and orange like the Denver Broncos' colors adopted by the local team.
Last year the AAYFA welcomed the Annapolis All Stars into the organization and with Stanford Womack at the helm, that purple-and-gold clad group made great strides.
The addition of the Annapolis All Stars and Brooklyn Park the last two years, and with the dramatic increase in 135-pound teams, runs thetotal number of youngsters playing county football to nearly 2,500.
Teams are limited to 30 players. AAYFA officials hope that those organizations with more than 30 players in a specific age group will add a "B" team to avoid cutting players. If not, then the organizations are expected to help the additional youngsters find another place to play.
The weights are not straight 75, 95, 115 and 135, but rather over and under the main numbers. The AAYFA calls it older/lighter,which means younger players can weigh more than older ones. It has created a lot of controversy, but still is being used by the organization.
In addition to Andover, Annapolis and Brooklyn Park, other AAYFA organizations include: Annapolis Crusaders, the Anne Arundel Gridiron Club Rebels of Glen Burnie, the Buccaneers of Riviera Beach, Cape St. Claire, Crofton Cardinals, Davidsonville Gators, Edgewater, East Glen Burnie Warriors, Deale, Fort Meade Cougars, Gambrills-Odenton Rec Council, Maryland City, Mayo, Peninsula Athletic League, PasadenaChargers, Severna Park Green Hornets, Severn Savages and the United Youth Club (Lothian).
"And we're already talking about expansion for next year," said DePasquale. "Seems like the past always comes back, and we may go back to the weight set-up we had 10 to 15 years ago because of the 20-pound spread between 115 and 135.
"By next year we may have leagues for 75, 90, 105, 120 and 135, and possibly eliminate the 'B' teams. We're working on it."
DePasquale also said league championships will return to Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold this season after a two-year absence. The big day had been moved to Northeast High two years ago and Broadneck last year.
"Anne Arundel has invited us back, and it seems like the kids and everybody involved like to play in a college stadium for the county championships," said DePasquale.
The AAYFA will pay Anne Arundel $300 to use the facility, but DePasquale says "it's worth it."
As for the referees, they will be run once again by Ray Henderson, who received high marks for the job he did last year. Henderson has been conducting weekly classes on Tuesday nights and makes it mandatory for the officialsto attend.
"If they don't come to class, they don't work," said Henderson.