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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 11, 2005

Pop Warner continues growth in Guilderland

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — Standing on a balcony overlooking the playing fields, Emilio Genzano watched with a smile on his face as teams of young boys in heavy gear practiced football.

Genzano, the president of the Guilderland Pop Warner Football League, was overseeing the best turnout the league has ever had.

"We have 163 players," Genzano said. "It’s the most we’ve had since I’ve been involved. This is a nice sight, to see them all spread out all around."

The fields at Nott Road were covered with kids in football equipment and coaches urging them on, as well as over 300 cheerleaders and their coaches preparing for the upcoming season.

"The cheerleaders always come out in masses," Genzano said. "We also have players from surrounding communities, Voorheesville and Rotterdam. That’s nice to see."

The Pop Warner League has five divisions, divided by age.

The youngest players — ages five to seven — are in the flag football program.

The first level of tackle football is the Mighty-Mites. It is open to players seven to nine years old who weigh between 45 and 90 pounds.

Junior Pee-Wee is open to players between the ages of eight and 10 who weigh between 50 and 100 pounds.

Pee-Wee players are nine to 11 and must weigh between 71 and 115 pounds. Junior Midgets are 10 to 12 years old and must weigh between 80 and 130 pounds.

The oldest age group is the Midgets. Players must be between 11 and 14 years old and must weigh between 95 and 150 pounds.

Army of coaches

"We are pretty organized," Genzano said. "Everyone is doing something. Every team has a minimum of five coaches."

Genzano said that the league’s board members decided to make that a rule so that players would get the attention they need to learn the game and to always be busy at practices.

All the coaches are volunteers and, when asked, all had the same answer for why they got involved with coaching Pop Warner football — the kids.

One of the many coaches is Charlie Dukes.

Dukes is orginally from Colonie and played at Colonie High School before earning a scholarship to play at Boston College.

He coaches at the Mighty-Mite level and his son is member of that team.

"I was an assistant last year," Dukes said. "They needed a coach and I knew I had a lot I could offer. I like coaching my son and all the other kids. This is my way of giving back."

It is not just parents who volunteer to be head or assistant coaches; the league also welcomes junior coaches, who are mostly members of the Guilderland varsity football team.

High school students like Greg Buck and J.T. Terry come back to help with a program they grew up in.

"I wanted to get involved," Terry said. "My [varsity] coaches are here. I grew up playing Pop Warner. There’s nothing like it."

Genzano is working on the relationship with the football coaches at Guilderland High School. Head varsity coach Dan Penna and his assistant, Bill Schewe, took in some of the practices at the Nott Road fields on Tuesday. Also checking out the young football players was junior varsity coach John Winters.

Old guard

Then there is the old guard. A guy like Mike Cahill, who has coached in the league for a long time and who doesn’t have a son in the league — though his daughter is a cheerleader.

For Cahill, it is all about coaching the kids and teaching the game he loves.

"We spend time teaching a lot of life lessons," Cahill said. "We want to teach the value of hard work and make them accountable for their actions."

Last year, Cahill’s team finished the season with a 6-2 record and many of the players he coached at the Midget level last year will return.

"We have 13 out of 20 players returning," Cahill said. "We’re looking at a lot of positives through this year. We add seven first-time players.

"This is a special group," Cahill added. "They are very enthusiastic and they show that in practice."

But there is more to their relationship than practicing on weekdays and playing on weekends.

Cahill organized a trip to the United States Military Academy at West Point for a football game against the Air Force Academy.

"We also got a group of kids together to go to a cheerleading competition," Cahill said. "I didn’t have to force them to go. They all wanted to go."

Pete Stanish played Pop Warner in the 1970’s and his son, Pete, played recently.

"My son is 15 and at the high school," the elder Stanish said. "He works for me part-time and then he is in the gym, working out for football. Then he spends his nights here, giving back to the program."

Play for all reasons

The kids join Pop Warner for a number of reasons.

"I want to come out here and just have fun," said Chris Hyrny of Duanesburg. "I like the hitting."

Hyrny is in his second year in the Guilderland Pop Warner League. He used to play in the Rotterdam league.

"Duanesburg doesn’t have a team," he said.

Peter Quinn also likes the hitting aspect of the game. He is also a quarterback on the team and has been in the Guilderland Pop Warner for five years.

"I just wanted to play," Quinn said. "And I liked it at first and wanted to keep on playing."

Quinn can’t wait to start slinging the ball around in games.

"Oh yeah, we have a lot of passing plays," the Farnsworth Middle School eighth-grader said.

Justin Notaro started playing football in Albany, but moved to Guilderland a few years ago and is in his second year in the Guilderland league. He has played football for seven years.

"I like the hitting and the excitement of the games," Notaro said. "I’m ready to go to the games."

It was a nice way for the rising Guilderland High School freshman to meet new people when he moved from Albany. And he and his friends on the team recruit.

"We try and get new kids out," Notaro said.

Volunteer force

While the product on the field is improving, that is due to people behind the scenes, Genzano said.

These range from Sabrina Appleby and Spencer Tyson in the concession stand, to C.J. Gallup, who coordinates the fields at Nott Road.

The majority of people involed with Guilderland Pop Warner are volunteers, including Beth Marfurt, who is the head of the cheerleading program.

"We filled every team," Marfurt said. "We had a waiting list this year. Each year, we get more and more successful."

Last year, the Junior Midget cheer squad won the state championship and several othersteam advanced to regional and state tournaments.

"We also want our girls to become high-school cheerleaders," Marfurt said. "We teach the girls jumps.

"The parents are the heart of our program," Marfurt added. "It’s completely volunteer."

Lindsay Decker and Andrea Schwartz have been cheering for three years in the Pop Warner league.

"The first year, I came out because one of my friends was doing it," Schwartz said. "I decided to do it and I liked it and I decided to keep on doing it."

"I wanted to get outside and get some excercise," Decker said. "And to have some fun."

The season opens with a family fun night scheduled for Aug. 25. There will be scrimmages among other activities on that night.

Games begin on Sept. 3 and will be on Saturdays and Sundays. Teams play eight games during the season and will travel to Glens Falls, Ravena, and Troy.

New to the league this year is the Challenger division for mentally- and physically-handicapped children ages six through 15.

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