Norwich Wildcats Youth Football and Cheer Find New Home at AYFC
NORWICH – The Norwich Wildcats Youth Football and Cheerleading have entered the 2021 season looking to take on the world.
The Wildcats have decided to leave the region’s established league, the Southern New England Youth Football Conference, to join New London in American Youth Football and Cheer, a 25-year tour billed as the world’s largest football organization. The New England division includes New London, Norwich, Bridgeport, Springfield (Mass.), Meriden, East Hartford, among others – a much longer road trip than Montville and Griswold around here.
Norwich and New London cited better competition and no weight restrictions as the main reasons for leaving the local league. The SNEYFC offers weight limits for technical level players.
“In the new league, a taller kid can play as a quarterback, fullback or wide receiver regardless of their weight, which will help them develop for high school,” said Derrick Smith, league president. Norwich Wildcat. “It’s a big reason we moved. The AYF also has playoff levels for football and fun – right up to the national championship in Orlando. It’s an exciting decision.”
Unfortunately for Norwich, optimism was temporarily stifled on Monday to start the second week of training. An individual in the family of a player from Norwich has tested positive for COVID-19. The Uncas health service and the league have decided to stop training until Friday.
Smith posted on Facebook that “If a player has been vaccinated they can be tested after three or five days of exposure. Otherwise the test must be done on or after August 5.”
Smith extended the early-bird registration to a Friday deadline. He said the league numbers were a bit lower than in the past due to various factors, so additional time to register will be welcome.
“We always started on August 1 in the CFSNS so families aren’t used to the earlier start time of the new league,” Smith said. “Also, there has been a slight increase in Covid so some people are hesitant now. We need more players to register for teams on the pitch in all age groups. have at least U14, U12 and U10 teams. “
Smith ignored a theory that a lower turnout is due to locals frowning on joining a new league that will require much longer travel for weekend games.
“I haven’t heard from much opposition,” Smith said. “Rhonda Exum is exciting to have the opportunity to encourage competition at the national level. The children and families in training last week have been so supportive.”
Smith said he heard a lot of positive comments from New London, who played in the AYF last season when the SNEYFC and most fall track leagues were canceled due to the pandemic. New London and Norwich have traditionally fielded strong teams. Norwich won U14 in 2014. New London won three of four divisions in 2019 and have been dominating for decades.
But Ted Koziol, president of the SNEYFC de Griswold, said the local teams met in New London and Norwich for the championships.
In the U14 division, Stonington won in 2018, Griswold in 2015, Killingly in 2012 and Plainfield in 2011. Groton-Mystic has a proud history of championships, as does Ledyard.
“The SNEYFC has been the primary power system for the ECC with 60 years of tradition,” said Koziol. “We will be having our Super Bowl on grass (Stonington) and our cheerleading championships at Foxwoods Grand Ballroom. We have 12 teams and the league is on very solid ground.”
The SNEYFC opened training on Monday. Waterford, East Lyme, Griswold, Montville, Ledyard, Stonington, Westerly, Killingly, Windham, Groton-Mystic, Old Saybrook / Westbrook and newcomer Tolland are members. Both leagues open regular season games the weekend before Labor Day.
Koziol also added that players from Norwich and New London who do not wish to play in the new travel-intensive league are encouraged to register with neighboring SNEYFC teams,
Both leagues, any league, school or organization for that matter, are sensitive to Covid issues. But that hasn’t stopped the optimism from spreading. Norwich Free Academy team and coach Jason Bakoulis held a clinic in Norwich training last week.
“Most people are okay with the move to an exciting new league,” Smith said. “We look forward to the competition, state, regional and national qualifiers and the absence of weight restrictions.”