Nearly 100 players on four Yosemite Badger Youth Football teams began practice last week, with season-opening games on Aug. 29 in Dos Palos.
Chris Heard, president of YBYB, said the teams had a great first week of practice preparing for the Tri-County youth football league.
Last week was dedicated to conditioning drills for the players, and this week player put on pads and helmets for contact drills.
“There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm about the season ... by players, coaches, and parents,” Heard said.
The program, in its 37th year, has received a boost in numbers, with 20-plus players, and a couple coaches, from the Minarets Youth Football program that was forced to dissolve earlier this season due to the lack of players and coaches.
The Senior team has taken on learning new offense and defense schemes, passed down from JD Burnett, new Yosemite High head coach.
“The Senior team is running the same system that the high school is using so those players will be more prepared as they move onto Yosemite High,” Heard said. “We are getting a lot of help from Coach Burnett, and we appreciate all the volunteer help from coaches, trainers, and team moms.
“Success starts with the coaches, and we have good ones,” Heard continued. “All our coaches are certified through USA Football.”
Pete Mascola, head coach of the Senior team, is in his 11th consecutive year of coaching in the program. Mascola and his long-time assistant Alan Shack Shackleford, won four consecutive Tri-County Super Bowls (2009-2012) aided by talented teams lead by Jeremy Miller, Jason Lee, Luke Tovar, and Brian Woolsey.
Mascola and his staff won two Super Bowls with the Pee Wee team, and moved up with the same group of players to win the Junior division in 2011, and the Senior division in 2012.
But those glory days ended when Minarets started its youth program three years ago, absorbing many players who live in Yosemite Lakes Park just up the road from Minarets High School, who would have played in the Yosemite program.
“We have really struggled the past three years,” Mascola said. “It’s tough to be competitive when you only have 15 or 16 players ... not enough to even scrimmage against.”
Over the years, it’s been said that if your only win of the season is against Sierra, you have had a successful season. And that’s exactly what the Senior team did last year, winning its last game if the season, the Mountain Bowl, over Sierra, 8-0.
“I took the team over last year at mid-season and we improved every game,” Mascola said. “We will build on that win against Sierra.”
Mascola has six returners from last year’s team, five who were starters, and is optimistic about the season.
Team leaders look to be quarterback Connor Cramer, running back Nick Harper (from the Minarets program), and offensive lineman and defensive linebackers Noah Burns, and Caleb Burk.
“Cramer has experience at quarterback ... Harper is smart and plays tough ... Noah is very strong and coachable, and Caleb is very athletic,” Mascola said.
Mascola is not real concerned about wins and losses, stating the goals this season are to teach the players the game of football, be competitive, and to improve week after week.
The four Badger youth teams:
* Seniors (13 year-olds): Head Coach Pete Mascola - assistants Alan Shackleford, Aaron Pelz, Steven Dugovic, John Hanson-Sedor.
* Juniors (11-12): Head Coach Randy Matyshock - assistants Mike Gipson, JR Airey, Chance Alberta.
* Pee Wees (9-10): Head Coach Jeramy Bolding - assistants Ryan Azevedo, TJ Medina.
* Mighty Mites (6-8): Head Coach Arturo Cachu-Millan - assistants Clint Stivers, Kyle Alexander.
Players interested in playing youth football, can still sign-up for $100 by contacting Kristy Muraszewski at (517) 712-6433.
Details: Chris Heard, (559) 760-0293, yosemitebadgeryouthfootball.com.
Cheerleaders will support teams
The four youth football teams will have plenty of sideline support from four cheerleading squads.
Yosemite Badger Youth Football Cheer Co-Coordinator Michele Shockley said 32 girls, 5-13 years-old, make up the four squads, half returning from last season. Ashley Turner is the other co-coordinator.
“The girls have already developed a really nice comradely, and are looking forward to starting a Little Sister/Big Sister program this week to help mentor our younger cheerleaders,” Shockley said.
The first four weeks of practice is spent working on conditioning and learning basic arm positions, jumps, Badger cheers, stunts, and a halftime dance.
Like the football teams, the cheer program is highly dependent on volunteers, and Shockley said she is very fortunate to have four strong coaching teams made up of moms and YHS cheerleaders.
Cheer coaches include Angie Luz (Seniors), Jody Burrnett (Juniors), Ashley Turner (Pee Wees), and Danielle Williams (Mighty Mites).
“We have also had the support of YHS Cheer Coach Jennifer Lincoln, who has offered advice when needed and provided a stunting clinic to teach the girls safety and technique when performing their stunts,” Shockley said. “The high school sees the value in supporting our program, as we are a feeder program for them. And lastly, we want to thank the business community who supports our program financially by purchasing advertisement in our football/cheer program each year.”