Friendly rivals face off in mini Jackson Bowl

For The Tribune

The Seymour Area Youth Football League’s fifth-sixth grade team hosted Brownstown’s 56ers program Thursday under the big lights at Bulleit Stadium.

Putting on their game faces, the kids took the field just like the varsity teams.

This past season, there were about 130 kids in Seymour’s youth football program.

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This season, the SAYFL allowed Rock Creek Elementary to enter one third-fourth grade team and a fifth-sixth grade team, so each division had four teams.

“The league lasts for six weeks, and the teams play four games per week,” said SAYLF president Michelle Shattuck.”

Shattuck said that the program has seen better tackles among the fifth and sixth graders, so the program is paying off in that area also.

Jason O’Neal, who has coached football on different levels for 22 years, was elected to coach the SAYFL on Thursday.

This year was special for O’Neal, with his sixth-grade son Josh playing for him this year.

“It’s easy to coach good kids, and I’ve had good kids for 22 years,” O’Neal said. “I’ve been blessed to be able to do this and I’ve enjoyed every step of it.”

O’Neal gave an emotional speech after the game and announced he’d be retiring after this season.

The SAYFL has seen growth in numbers.

“We gained a few kids, we had nearly a 25 percent increase,” said SAYFL vice president Andy Rueger. “We are teaching them the fundamentals of the game. It’s not so much about winning or losing, it’s teaching.”

Rueger coached with the high school team initially but is helping the youth league now.

Qwenton Bolden, a sixth grader from Seymour said he enjoys playing in the league.

Bolden scored a touchdown and had several tackles.

“I think it was a good season and everyone did pretty well,” he said.

Emanuel Fontanze, a fifth grader, said, “It’s been great. A lot of good teammates, and a lot of good sportsmanship. It’s fun to play with these guys.”

John Robison, league director for Brownstown’s 56ers program, coached the Brownstown team.

“This season we played half the season with teams mixed, and then went with fifth grade only and sixth grade only,” Robinson said.

Robison was pleased with this season and enjoyed a record turnout.

“We had close to 80 kids,” Robison said. “It’s the biggest number since I’ve been doing it, and I’ve been doing it seven years now. Seymour’s got some good kids, and I think we’ll see some good rivalries in the future.”

Braves sixth grader Kienan Meyer enjoyed the competition.

“We played on Saturdays against each other, so this was our first time playing against other people,” Meyer said. “It was really fun (tonight).

Ethan Davis, a Brownstown sixth grader said, “I had fun. It was a good experience playing here.”