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Youth football has a major new look in 2014

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The Greater Bullitt County Youth Football League

By Mike Farner

 SHEPHERDSVILLE – Addition by subtraction.

The Greater Bullitt County Football League, making fundamental changes for the first time since the creation of the Little Bullitts age group and the addition of the Pleasant Grove program more than 15 years ago, will work to make the ‘A’ Division a more competitive group this fall by realigning that age group into six teams instead of the nine programs that will continue to make up the other three age divisions.

The main changes will now align the league more along the lines of the local middle schools, not the ancient elementary school boundaries that has nothing to do with present school borders.

However, long-time league president Joe Downs quickly points out that he considers the changes as a realignment, not the creation of middle school football.

Many followers of the largest youth activity organization in the county might quibble over the phrasing, but are pleased to see that the league is embracing change that has been encouraged by the county’s three high school football programs for a number of years. Some might even see this as a ‘bridge’ period leading to middle school football.

Starting on Saturday when the league starts play for the 2014 season, the ‘A’ division will have six programs -- the North Ravens, the North Falcons, the East Chargers Gold, the East Chargers Red, the Central Bearcats and the Central Wildcats.

Obviously, the ‘North’ teams include players who will attend the two middle schools that feed into North Bullitt High School while the same works for the ‘East’ teams being students who will eventually attend Bullitt East and then the same with the ‘Central’ players attending Bullitt Central.

Where at this point it sort of veers away from true middle school football is that, for example, the players in the two ‘North’ programs aren’t separated into Hebron and Zoneton teams. Fearing that right off the bat that the numbers would not equal out, the league opted to put all the kids who attend Hebron and Zoneton into a pool and then the coaches ‘drafted’ the players to the Ravens and Falcons.

In recent seasons, the ‘A’ programs, when there were nine teams, were beginning to have some number problems. Some of the programs were going into games with as few as 13 or 14 players. Now, Downs reports that all six of the teams have at least 20 players and some have as many as 28. Those numbers make practices more productive and also decrease the chance of injuries from fatigue during games.

“We finally got ‘A’ realignment to go through,” Downs said late last week as he took a break from preparing the two game fields for the start of the season. “It took the right group of (program) chairmen to see it through.

“We had a draft to the teams and that went fairly well,” the president added. “There was so much negativism before, but now that we have it, everybody loves it.”

While most of the rules for the new ‘A’ Division are the same as in the past (time of the quarters etc.), there is one major change geared more toward middle school football. Now, there is no longer a weight limit for ball carriers in that age group. No longer will any players in that age group have the ‘X’ tape on the back of their helmets.

(There were weigh-ins and the weight limits remain in place, and unchanged, for the three younger divisions).

The overall age limits have not changed either. The players in the new ‘A’ line-up cannot turn 14 before Dec. 31 and they cannot be freshmen in high school. They all have to turn 11 years of age before Aug. 1.

There are still some ‘bugs’ to be worked out. One concern is that with only six teams in one division, and nine in all the others, that to maintain the teams playing every week, that it is possible that some teams will face each other three times this season including the play-offs. Downs has already floated the idea of bringing teams from Spencer or Oldham or Jefferson County out in future years to face some of the ‘A’ teams to add some variety.

As it stands now, the two ‘North’, ‘Central’ and ‘East’ teams will play each other this Saturday starting at 4 p.m. and then not play each other again during the regular season. The teams will then play each of the other four teams in the division twice before the start of the play-offs on Oct. 25.

“I’m just glad we got it all going,” Downs said.

Later Start

While it doesn’t rise to the level of realignment, another change this year for the league is that the start of the season was moved back a week. That means just two weeks of play before the league takes a week off over the Labor Day weekend.

Downs said that the change was not heat-related so much for the season, but for the start of practice. Youth league teams are allowed to start practice six weeks before the start of the season, so the change meant fewer practices in July.

Of course, as these things often turn out, this has been a remarkably cool summer so it didn’t really help that situation. Still, the league does have an ‘Emergency Heat Schedule’ for games if needed down the road. With lights on both fields, as well as Sunday now completely free of scheduled games, there are plenty of spots to move games if that becomes necessary.

Another reason for moving the start of the season back a week was to give the two fields another week of growing. The cold weather last winter pretty much wiped out the Bermuda turf on both fields.

“We had no grass,” Downs said as he looked out over the bigger field. “We had to start from scratch. We had professionals come in and power seed it.”

Downs feels that the grass will be around 80 percent to where he would like it to be and where it has been in the past.

Good Numbers

As of late last week, Downs said that he expected every age group in all nine programs to field teams this season. There have been times in the past where Lebanon Junction and Brooks have had trouble finding enough players, but that is not the case in 2014.

“We have really good numbers in the Little Bullitts and PeeWee,” Downs noted. “The ‘B’ numbers are about the same as last year.” 

Official Changes

One reversion to former ways that the league operated is with the officials this season.

Over the past several years, the league has been working to create its own pool of officials. Last year, the league provided all its own officials, breaking ties with the Kentucky Football Officials Association.

Fortunately, the two parties separated on happy terms. The league lost the person who was over-seeing the local official program and Downs did not feel comfortable with the numbers available for this season.

So, the league is going back to using KFOA sanctioned officials for all of the ‘A’ and ‘B’ level games. Local officials will continue to do the games in the PeeWee and Little Bullitts age group.

Overall

Downs said that there will be no changes in the fee structure at league events this season. Ticket prices have remained the same and concession prices are the same.

There were only a few changes in the Board Members for this season. Downs is the League President and Ron Washburn will serve as the Vice-President. Kim Durbin returns as the Secretary while Terry Williams is the Treasurer and Jeff Shank is the Sergeant of Arms. The Financial Secretary is Jeremy Wilson and the new Program Director is Jeremy Jenkins. Rico Mooney is the Football Coordinator this season while Amanda Collins is the Cheer Coordinator.

Important Dates for 2014 Youth Football:

August 16 - Opening Saturday

August 30 - No Games (Labor Day)

Oct. 18 - Final regular season games

Oct. 25 - First weekend of play-off games

Nov. 8 - Championship Saturday

Nov. 15 - All-Star Weekend

Nov. 22 or 23 - Cheer Competition

Games will start at 8:50 a.m. each Saturday during the regular season on the two fields located at the site of the old Shepherdsville High School on Joe B. Hall Avenue in Shepherdsville.

Admission each day will be $4 for adults and $2 each for students and senior citizens. Season passes for both individuals and families will be on sale during the first two weekends of the season for $75 for a family of four or $40 for an individual. There will also be senior citizen passes for $20.

As in the past, The Pioneer News will run results from the Greater Bullitt County Youth Football League games each Wednesday.