Building a youth dynasty

Published 12:05 am Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rashaad Coleman dives over the pylon during last year’s Big Iron Bowl championship against Brewton.

Rashaad Coleman dives over the pylon during last year’s Big Iron Bowl championship against Brewton.

The Florala Wildcats’ Youth Football and Cheer programs are heading into the 2016 season as defending champions in five of the six league divisions competing in the South Central Youth Football League (SCYFL).

Last season’s Pee Wee squad (11-12 year old) started the year with wins over Andalusia and Opp before completing the SCYFL season undefeated champions with a 12-0 record.

The 2015 success included the Tiny Mites (6-8 year olds) who didn’t allow a point scored until the final minute ending their championship run, as well.

Since 2012 Florala’s youth have racked up 14 championships with an additional five runner-up trophies.

Have they created a Youth Dynasty? Every season a sports team and their fans seemly begin taunting the world with the dynasty word after a championship win, or multiple seasons of success.

Already Golden State and Cleveland fans are beginning the dynasty conversation after the second straight season facing off in the NBA title games.

Following their 2014 World Series, San Francisco Giant fans began claiming dynasty rings with their third title in five years.

The New York Islanders claimed the “Cup” from 1979 through 1982.

Starting the season the Pittsburgh Steelers ended their fourth Super Bowl Championship in six years.

UCLA ruled college basketball from 1964–1975 with 10 NCAA Championships over the 12-year span, each group’s fans claiming a dynasty.

Sportswriters and fans alike argue what constitutes a dynasty and most widely accepted are those with championships over a lengthy period. Others argue three consecutive, or as with Alabama, four over a period of seven years could qualify as a dynasty.

Webster’s defines a dynasty as a succession of rulers of the same line of descent – or – a powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time.

Many sports historians argue continued success at programs like Alabama and UCLA couldn’t be considered a true dynasty because the leadership was the same (Nick Saban and John Wooden).   Have Florala Youth programs created a dynasty or just domination?

The Florala Pee Wee Cheerleaders will be competing for their fifth consecutive Cheer Championship in the upcoming 2016 season, and all three squads are defending titles.    “We’ve had a great group of dedicate girls and their competitive nature and spirit rubs off onto the younger squads,” said Tori Russell, who along with Jessica Jackson has coached the same team from first and second graders to sixth and seventh.

“We are extremely fortunate that our league and president supports the cheerleaders the same as our football teams,” added Jackson.    “Each year the competition from the other leagues gets tougher and the level of routines get more technical.”

Florala’s Tiny Mite and Termite squads each captured division championships last season, as well.   Florala cheerleaders have either won or been runner-up in 11 of the 12 competitions since 2012.   The one title missing was the Pee Wee division 2014 — Florala didn’t have a cheer team competing that year.

Florala’s football teams have added to the leagues’ success, as well with at least two teams playing in the Championship game each of the past four seasons – winning six out of eight.

“We’ve have a lot of parent support and community involvement,” Florala YES President Newton Peters said. “Every year we’ve tried to focus and improve our league in a specific area – whether camps for football with former NFL player Dwight Stone, tumbling for cheer, coaching certification or scheduling – we strive to make a positive impact on the Florala area youth.”

“Florala’s Youth Football Program is one of the finest in our area.  Although fed by a smaller community, they always are able to compete against much larger programs like Andalusia,” Andalusia Youth Football League Board of Directors and Termite assistant coach Brett Holmes said. “That ability to play and even win against those of us with bigger budgets and more kids is a testament to the leadership and coaching of Florala Youth Football.  AYFL is very proud of our relationship with Florala and looks forward to meeting again this year in what has become somewhat of a kickoff game for both teams.”

Last season Florala scheduled Andalusia and Opp to open their season and this year have Straughn tapped to open the season with interest from Florida and Georgia teams traveling to take on the Wildcats.   All the leagues in the SCYFL have regularly organizational and rules meetings and this season Red Level, Kinston, McKenzie, Pleasant Home, and Florala will add Brantley once the season officially begins with opening practices allowed on August 1.

“We are now making strides to work with Florala High School’s new principal and coaching staff to further integrate our youth programs with the high school,” stated Peters. The Wildcat Band has performed between Termite (9-10) and Pee Wee home games and the youth cheerleaders join the High School during third quarter at Varsity games. “Our teams compete with the same 1A schools the high school plays on Friday nights, so we are excited about the opportunity for future success these young players could take to the high school.”