Local program gets back on track

Youth final set for Sunday.
Posted on Oct. 12, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — The future of Elkhart football is not necessarily about the Friday night lights.

For now, it’s a few fall Sunday afternoons where nobody is worried about a “3-4’’ defensive front while four wideouts and a shotgun formation are not components of offense.

This is the EYFL — Elkhart Youth Football League.

In its second revival season after two years of no games, the EYFL is back on its feet and grooming new Crimson Chargers and Blue Blazers. It’s a program in which volunteers from Memorial and Central, along with coaching staffs from both schools, had to retool and kickstart.

Elkhart, organizers say, could not go on long without a youth back-to-basics league of some kind.

“I think it’s hugely important,’’ said Bill Roggeman, Memorial High School’s head coach. “Football’s a game where there’s such unique skills need to be developed. In this day and age, kids don’t go out and play like they used to.’’

Richard Delks, who heads the EYFL board as president, is helping direct a new commitment to fostering bonds between the two schools and an developing a strong core of coaches.

As he watched Sunday’s round of games at Central’s Rice Field, he liked what he saw.

“We can grow it. We believe it’s extremely important to get kids interested and motivated about the game and get them excited about their high school programs as well,’’ Delks said. “It gives them a foundation to move forward.”

Games have been played at Rice Field and Charger Field as well as the practice field areas at both schools. The league fields four teams in grades 5-6 and six more squads in a grade 3-4 division. Approximately 175 kids compete, a number up from 140 a year ago — the difference of roughly two additional teams.

The season’s final games will be staged Sunday at Memorial — contests at 1 p.m. leading up to the 3 p.m. “Mini Mangy Lion’’ championship game.

“I think we can get it to six fifth- and sixth-grade teams and eight third- and fourth-grad teams in the future,’’ Delks said.

The more the merrier said Levon Johnson, Central’s coach.

“The bottom line is young people in Elkhart need a chance to be in athletics and working on teamwork,’’ Johnson said. “The movements, the intracacies, what 11 guys have to do together ... learning the game.

“The volunteer coaches have done a good thing so far, but we’ve got find a way to better balance the coaching, the training of the coaches, our availability,’’ Johnson said. “We’ve had the practices at the high schools so we can be more available.”

“Levon and I have both talked and we want to be involved,’’ Roggeman said. “We see these teams as feeders to the schools. We’re in a unique situation with three middle schools and two high schools. The fact of the matter is, you have to look at the individual youngster and provide him a way to participate.”

According to Delks, the EYFL has benefitted from local sponsorships — businesses and private donors — to help with operational costs and equipment. The league is looking into adding licensed game officials for 2013 to replace high school players, who help keep time and blow whistles.

It’s far from perfect, but it’s a start — or re-start, Delks said.

“If you’ve got two head coaches commited to it, if you’ve got two AD’s commited to it, assistant coaches commited to it,’’ Delks said, “yes, certainly I think we’ve got that commitment. And we’ll grow on that commitment.”

Recommended for You

Back to top ^