By Nathan Mayberg
SACKETT LAKE September 29, 2006 For decades, there was little to no football for kids in Monticello.
Officially, the Monticello Central School District has had no football program in more than six decades.
But after the persistent and well- organized efforts of the community last year, led by Cherie Mosher, the Monticello Area Football and Cheerleading Organization (MAFCO) has three youth football teams that play in the Orange County Youth Football League.
On Sunday afternoon, one of those teams, a Division II squad made up of 9-, 10- and 11-year-olds, faced off against a Goshen team in Sackett Lake. Monticello hosted the game on its new field, which was built on old farmland donated by Anthony Poli.
Last autumn, the MAFCO teams played strictly away games.
On Sunday, the final score was 32-6, as the Goshen Division II team using its experience, numbers, size and running game to record the win over the Monticello squad, which is only in its second full season of youth football.
The full-contact game was intense, and players on both sides of the field competed with a lot of heart and determination. The coaches also displayed their caring and dedication to the league and its young players.
Monticello was led by outstanding running efforts by Kareem McCline Jr. and Kyle McNair. The Panthers also showed some promise in their passing game, as quarterback Shaun Cargill completed two passes to wide receiver Chris Gallo.
McNair was equally important to the team on offense as he was on defense. The 11-year-old was a major defensive stopper, and when carrying the ball, he was tough to bring down. Cargill and Gallo also made contributions to the Panthers’ defense.
For Monticello, the play of the day was made by McCline when he ran for more than 50 yards for a touchdown in the second half.
Although the final score was not in their favor, the game was another learning experience for a Panthers team that was playing without a dozen of the players who originally registered for the team. Several have quit, while three players did not make the required weight for the game.
Monticello Coach Kareem McCline thought his team needs some more practice but found some positives.
“Overall, this is a good program,” he said. “As the years go on, and the players get more experience, they will be better.”
McCline, who is assisted with the coaching duties by Chris Gallo, Michael Greco and Jeff Sheehan, also believes more involvement from parents is needed. He said that it can be hard to get children to practices, which are held three times a week, because parents are often busy.
Like others involved with MAFCO, he wants the Monticello Central School District to get involved with the program.
Currently, MAFCO has three divisions: 8- and 9-year-olds in Division I; 9-, 10- and 11-year-olds in Division II and 12- and 13-year-olds in Division III.
So far this season, Division III has been the most successful team, posting a record of 2-1.
Each MAFCO team has its own cheerleading squad. Melinda Green and Miecha Weston coach the Division II cheerleaders, who were a spirited bunch on Sunday.
Although there is not a Mighty Mite team for 7- and 8-year-olds this year, the league will be looking to start a team in that age group next season.
MAFCO is based within the Monticello district, but it will accept children from other school districts. MAFCO registered 140 players this year, although the active number is lower.
“The organization has a dedicated team of volunteers,” MAFCO treasurer Donna Reese said.
Among them are Poli, who not only donated his land, but also helps maintain it by regularly cutting the grass, and Brian Stickle, one of a number of volunteers who helps maintain the field and mitigates flooding through the use of pumps and a generator.
The Monticello Police Benevolent Association has been one of the league’s biggest supporters.
According to Division III Assistant Coach Ron Reese, the Monticello PBA sponsored 10 players this year who couldn’t afford the cost to participate.
Many other local businesses have donated time and money to assist the league. For example, the Palombo Group donated a shed for a concession stand and E. Tetz and Sons donated stone for the driveway that leads to the field.
Donna Reese said the youth football league boosts school spirit.
“The kids get really pumped up. They really want to play,” she said.
Her husband Ron agreed.
“The kids really want to learn and really want to win,” he commented. “Most of the kids are dedicated to coming to practice.”
Ron Reese credited the PBA for helping the Division III team.
“We wouldn’t have as good a team as we do if not for them,” he said.
Ron Reese said the league is warehousing equipment in order to make it last for future seasons.
“Every penny we earn, we put back into the league,” he stated.
Parents with youngsters who are looking to join the league may call 794-4269 or visit the league’s Web site, www.monticello-afco.org. Anybody interested in helping the league can also go to the Web site for more information.