Youth football ready to kick off
Subheadline: Area teams set for season
Football season starts soon in the Lowcountry and three teams are ready to let the kids play.
The Ridgeland Jr. Jaguars and Hardeeville Canes play in the Lowcountry Youth Football League. The league, which has operated for more than 30 years, has 10 teams. Each team plays on four levels: the Dynamites (ages 5-6), the Small Fries (ages 7-8), the Pee Wees (ages 9-10), and the Midgets (ages 11-12).
“We teach football, but we’re also committed to personal fitness and academics,” Jr. Jags commissioner Jollie Orr said. Each team has four or five coaches, and a limit of 25 players.
“Whatever the kids are going through in life, we want to help them any way we can,” Orr said.
The teams play a nine-game schedule with hopes of making the playoffs. The Jr. Jaguars won consecutive championships (2014 and ‘15) on the Pee Wee level. In 2016, the Jr. Jags made the championship game on the Dynamite and Midget levels — with the Dynamites going undefeated in the regular season — but both teams lost.
The Canes won the Pee Wee title in 2013. In 2016, the Canes made the Small Fries championship game but lost. That team was quarterbacked by rising national prospect Dre’Von Dopson, son of Canes commissioner Andre Dopson.
Former Ridgeland-Hardeeville Jaguars who came up through the Lowcountry League include offensive lineman Ashley Mitchell, who played for the Jr. Jags, and Dopson’s older sons De’Andre and Davontay, who started with the Jr. Jags and finished with the Canes. De’Andre played linebacker, while Davontay played running back and cornerback. Freddie Aiken, who currently plays running back and linebacker for Ridgeland-Hardeeville, played for the Canes.
“We have a lot of talent,” Andre Dopson said. “The Lowcountry League is more competitive than people might think.”
League-wide practices began July 31. The Jr. Jaguars hold their practices and play their games on the Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School football field in Ridgeland. Practice time is 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Entry fee for each player is $55.
The Canes hold their practices and play their games on the Hardeeville-Ridgeland Middle School football field in Hardeeville.
Practice time is 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Entry fee for each player is $60. The league’s jamboree is Aug. 19. The regular season begins Aug. 26.
The Bluffton-Hardeeville Barracudas play in the Coastal Athletic Association, which allows boys and girls from age 6 to 12 play football. The Barracudas were founded in 2011 by Bill Eosso and Terry Laseter, and they play on three levels: 12-under, 10-under, and 8-under. Each team has a limit of 25 players.
The number of teams has fluctuated in a young and growing league, but they include Port Wentworth, Garden City, Fort Stewart, Rincon, Bloomingdale, and Pooler. The teams play a regular season schedule with no playoffs. In 2015, the 8-under Barracudas went 8-0 and shared the title with Garden City. The Barracuda teams struggled in 2016.
“We did some rebuilding last year,” Eosso said. “This year we’re expecting great things from the 10-under team.”
Practices and games are held at the Richard Gray Sports Complex in Hardeeville. Practice time is 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.. Eosso said the city of Hardeeville has improved the football field with a high-quality turf-grass. All head coaches in the CAA are certified in such areas as concussion awareness and hydration.
Entry fee for each player is $100. A $10 refund will be given to anybody who attended the Barracudas summer football boot camp. Eosso pointed out that while practice has already started, registration continues until Aug. 31.
“The season doesn’t start until September,” Eosso said. “Come on down to the practice field. We’ll be there.”
Eosso said the mission of the Barracudas is simple: “Every child should play.”