With another year of football fast approaching, youth players and cheerleaders have taken to the fields to prepare to make the most of the upcoming season.
Now in its ninth year, the Upper Perkiomen Mohawks are a community based feeder program for football players and cheerleaders from kindergarten through seventh grade.
Though they don’t quite match up in the size department to their high school counterparts, the players and cheerleaders make up for it in their focus, intensity and love of the game.
Practice got under way for the group Aug. 6 at the grass area in front of the Upper Perkiomen High School. Over 130 football players and 65 cheerleaders have signed up this year.
“The numbers have been getting bigger, and we’re definitely getting more volunteers over all,” said Mohawks president Mike Ambrose. “The community support has been coming in through sponsorships and fundraising, and the quality of football has been getting better over the years.”
Like last year, the Mohawks will compete as part of the Inter County Football League. Now in its second year, the league was created to help promote Pioneer Athletic competition that will hopefully continue through to the high school level.
Returning schools Boyertown, Spring-Ford and Coventry (Owen J. Roberts) have returned, with the addition of Perkiomen Valley in 2012. The hope is to have more PAC-10 teams join and eventually create a PAC-10 youth league. The non-league portion of the schedule will be supplemented with teams from the Berks County League.
One big change the league will implement is having the teams based on grade levels. In years past, teams were broken up into three divisions based on age: knee-hi (7-8), mites (9-10) and midgets (10-11), with teams divided into junior varsity and varsity teams.
With the Inter County League’s focus on teaching the fundamentals of football and not win-loss records, Ambrose said the teams will be more balanced, with other coaches less likely to stud teams.
“Competitive-wise it should have the kids on a more equal footing,” Ambrose said. “Instead of having the older kids up, we will put the kids by grade where they should be.”
This season the Mohawks will field two flag football teams for 5- and 6-year olds, with one team from first through seventh grades. Cheerleaders, under the direction of Pam Byers, will cheer on each of the teams at their home games.
One of the challenges this year for the Mohawks came with the purchase of 100 new football helmets. A new rule changed the amount of time a helmet could be reconditioned for safe use, prompting the Mohawks to take the initiative to buy 100 new helmets for the incoming players.
“That was definitely a hit,” Ambrose said, “that was $11,000 right out the door.”
Despite the expense, the Mohawks were able to keep registration rates the same. They also offered financial assistance for any family that needed it and waived any late fees. To help offset the costs, the Mohawks will hold a golf outing Friday, Sept. 14 at Macoby Run Golf Course, and a vendor bingo after the season in November at the East Greenville Fire Hall.
The first week of the season will kick off Sept. 8, with action continuing into November. The season will end with the Mohawks’ annual Turkey Bowl event at the Upper Perk High School.