By Rob Potter
FALLSBURG August 24, 2004 The excitement is building for football in the Town of Fallsburg.
Last Wednesday evening, a large group of parents watched from the edge of the field as the Fallsburg Pop Warner Jr. Comets Football and Cheering Association coaches conducted a practice session for the young football players and cheerleaders.
The players and cheerleaders have been practicing three nights a week since August 1 in preparation for the first-ever season of Pop Warner Football in Fallsburg. The Comet teams will be playing squads from around the Hudson Valley, including Highland, Marlboro and New Paltz.
The first games for the Pee Wee and Junior Pee Wee Comet football teams will be on Saturday, September 11. As of now, the coaches are not sure if those games will be played at the opponents field or on the Comets home field at Morningside Park.
No matter where the games are held, the local youngsters will be ready. Last Wednesday nights practice was one of the first workouts in which players wore helmets and full pads.
Things have been going pretty well, said Dennis Martin, head coach of the Pee Wee team. Were teaching them the basics right now. They are working on a few plays and how to tackle. Well be working on more plays in the next three weeks.
Helping Martin guide the Pee Wee team are assistant coaches Pete DeMelia, Paul Marsden and Fred Yearwood.
The head coach of the Junior Pee Wee team is Dave Luczyski, while the squads assistant coaches are Jason Grossman and Les Jackson.
Although the majority of 58 players and 30 cheerleaders are from the Town of Fallsburg, a few hail from the neighboring towns of Liberty, Neversink and Thompson.
John Ramirez, an 11-year-old resident of Liberty, said his father, Adam Ramirez, heard about the team and asked him if he wanted to play. John immediately said yes.
I love football, said Ramirez, a member of the Pee Wee team who will enter the sixth grade next month at Liberty Middle School. Since I was about 4 years old, I have watched football with my dad.
When asked what he likes best about the Fallsburg Pop Warner program, Ramirez said passing and being the quarterback.
And he has one play already planned for the teams first game.
Im looking forward to going out and being able to pass the ball to a receiver and having him run down the field and make a touchdown, Ramirez said.
Eight-year-old Quinn Jackson of South Fallsburg is a member of the Junior Pee Wee team. He is enjoying the practices and learning more about the game of football.
But what does Jackson enjoy most?
Being able to hit the running backs and tackle them, said Jackson, who will begin the third grade next month at Benjamin Cosor Elementary School. Thats enjoyable.
Like his teammates, Jackson is eagerly anticipating the first game of the season. Hes looking forward to one aspect of the contest in particular.
Being able to go out on the field in front of a big crowd and hearing them cheering for us, Jackson commented.
Those crowds should be applauding for the cheerleaders and another young lady. Shanice Mack, a 10-year-old from South Fallsburg, is a member of the Pee Wee team. She has been practicing alongside her teammates all of whom are boys this month, participating in all the drills and exercises.
Some boys might have a problem with a girl on their football team and tease her or make her feel unwelcome. But that is not the case with the boys on the Fallsburg Comet Pee Wee team.
Theyre pretty cool about it, said Mack, who will enter the fifth grade next month.
When asked what she likes most about football, Mack was quick to reply.
Tackling people, she said with a big smile.
Mack doesnt have any qualms about being the only girl on the team, either. She just enjoys playing the game of football.
Its fun and I like it, she explained.
While coaches Luczyski and Martin and their assistants were putting their players through tackling drills during practice, the cheerleading coaches were helping the young cheerleaders with their formations.
Kiffanie Rodgers is the coach of the Pee Wee cheerleading squad, which includes girls from ages 9 to 12. The teams assistant coaches are Robynne Malman, Jamie Moore and Mabel Pabon.
The coach of the Junior Pee Wee squad (ages 8 to 10) is Valerie Luczyski. Helping her are assistant coaches Deborah Gates and Carla Wells.
Lisa Nardi is the coach of the Mascots, a cheer squad of 6- and 7-year-old girls. Although they are called mascots, the girls will not be dressed in mascot costumes. Instead, they will wear black and white outfits similar to those worn by the older cheerleaders.
All three cheer teams have been working diligently on their routines for several hours a few evenings the past three weeks.
Were trying to get them to be loud and cheering together, Rodgers said. They biggest thing is to get them on the same page.
The Pop Warner program may be new to Fallsburg, but in one respect, the teams are saluting the past. Both the Pee Wee and Junior Pee Wee players will be wearing gold helmets with no stickers. Fallsburg Pop Warner Jr. Comets Football and Cheering Association President Mike Weiner said that was done for Jim McDermott, a graduate of Notre Dame University who served as dean of students and varsity boys basketball coach for 20 years at Fallsburg Central School during the 1960s and 70s. The gold helmets of the Fallsburg players resemble those worn by the college players who compete on autumn Saturdays at legendary Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.
When I called Jim and told him about it, he said he was very honored, Weiner said of McDermott, who now lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pa. Well have these gold helmets for at least our inaugural season.
Things are progressing well as that first season quickly approaches, but the league is still seeking help to cover the cost of uniforms and other equipment. League organizers are currently conducting raffles to raise some of those needed funds. The raffle prizes include a 25-inch TV, a $50 savings bond and dinner at Nardis Restaurant in Hurleyville.
In addition, monetary donations can be sent directly to: Fallsburg Pop Warner, P. O. Box 687, South Fallsburg, NY 12779.