Football season is back and starting small

Aug 23, 2023

“Ready, set, hike!” squeaks a six-year-old boy with the number one plastered on his chest and a piece of tape across his helmet which reads “Herb,” his name.

Kids can learn the football fundamentals at almost any age in town, through the Dartmouth Youth Football League.

The league starts at age 6 and goes until age 14. Girls are able to participate in football, but there is a parallel cheer program that runs at the same time and place as the football practice.

The budding athletes and cheer squad will take the field for the first time this season on Sunday Aug. 27 starting at 9 a.m., at the Dartmouth Memorial Stadium Field, located at 400 Slocum Road.

Participants can expect a team environment, where they will learn about respect, growth and structure, explained Christopher Pereira, the league’s President.

“At the end of the day it is about making them better young men and women,” said Pereira.

With hard work, the kids also experience the thrill of winning.

“Obviously we want to win, we want cheer to win their cheer competitions and we want football to win their games,” said Pereira. “But at the end of the day we want to provide a good, safe environment for the kids.”

Safety for the players comes in many forms Pereira said. The players are taught proper ways to tackle without using their heads and how to warm up to prevent injury. Still, the players enjoy the intensity of the contact sport.

“My favorite was trucking a kid, and putting my foot on top and saying, ‘rahhhh,’” said Sammy Blevines, 13, who has been in the league for 8 years. Blevines hopes to one day play for the New England Patriots.

The players all-in mentality makes head protection even more important, especially for players with dreams of going pro. To help improve safety, the league rolled out “Guardian Caps,” a soft gel cover for helmets intended to reduce the risk of concussion. Although the players can’t use them in games, it is expected to improve safety during practices.

The cheer team also has big goals, hoping to make it to the national championships in Florida, something they’ve only done once previously.

“We just recently became competitive, like really competitive,” said Kayla Nunes the leagues Cheer Coordinator. “So this year we are hoping to take all three teams.”

On top of being competitive, remaining focused in school is important to the league. To maintain this effort, the football and cheerleading programs require maintaining a 70 or above in all of their classes to participate in the league.