Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Youth Football Heats Up Season; Hilliard: New Team Takes Field This Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Youth Football Heats Up Season; Hilliard: New Team Takes Field This Year

Article excerpt

Byline: Amelia A. Hart, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

Hilliard Heat 9-11 Head Coach Steve Carter spent most of Thursday's practice helping his young players adjust their shiny red helmets and brand new chin and mouth guards.

"I tell you, you get those new jerseys on, you're gonna be looking sharp out here," Carter said.

From their new gear emblazoned with a flaming football to the league they're playing in, it's a whole new youth football game in Hilliard.

"We've got a lot of new kids and the parents are excited, too," Carter said. "I think it's going to be great."

After an absence of two years, youth football has been re-started in Hilliard by the non-profit Hilliard Athletic League. Unlike the previous program, and unlike other youth football leagues in Nassau County, the Hilliard Athletic League is affiliated with the eight-year-old American Youth Football instead of the 75-year-old Pop Warner Little Scholars league.

Hilliard resident Robert Mayhugh, one of the founders of the Hilliard Athletic League and its treasurer, said league members thought AYF was a better fit for the small community.

"It was hard for Hilliard to meet the guidelines and stipulations of Pop Warner," Mayhugh said. "It was difficult for the kids to play and for us to have the amount of kids we needed to play. It was always tough for them to do that, and we weren't competitive."

According to American Youth Football's Web site, there are more than 200,000 AYF participants in 44 states. The organization also is a national youth partner of the National Football League.

Unlike Pop Warner, AYF does not group players by weight, Mayhugh said. Rules, however, restrict kids to certain positions if they're over or under specified weight limits.

Hilliard Heat supporters think removing the weight restrictions will allow more boys to suit up. And that's particularly important in Hilliard because Hilliard Middle-Senior High doesn't field a middle school football team, Mayhugh said.

"Every kid can play football," he said. "With Pop Warner you have weight limits, and you'll have a child who's stuck out there if he's a little overweight. He can't play youth football until the high school level, and by the time he makes it to high school, he knows nothing about football. …

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