Some of these tiny football players weigh less than a third of their much older high school and collegiate counterparts, yet these little guys and girls are extremely competitive and have the same championship aspirations as their more mature heroes.
They also aren’t pros, and need some help during this holiday season.
The Schenectady/Belmont Junior Midget Pop Warner team is preparing to take on the East Orange, N.J. Rams in the East Region Championship Saturday in East Orange, N.J. The Raiders won the American Division title locally with an 8-0 record and then tacked on two more playoff wins to stretch their overall record to 10-0.
Coach Carm Depoalo, former head coach at both Mohonasen High School and Schenectady High School, said the Raiders have enough talent to bring home another regional championship, but they need help financially.
“We were hit with some
financial hardships, but we still want to make things special for this team,” Depoalo said. “The biggest hit for us financially was the new helmet law.
“Every two years, you need new helmets now. It used to be you could use the same helmets for between seven and 10 years, but now they aren’t certified. In our program, we need enough helmets for 140 players. Eighty-five helmets recently got rejected, and we needed new ones. They go about $100 apiece.”
In Pop Warner, Junior Midgets are between 11 and 14 years old, and they can weigh between 95 and 155 pounds. Depoalo noted that his Pop Warner program includes both boys and girls as players, plus cheerleaders. The youngsters’ families are charged a $140 registration fee, and some families can’t afford it.
“You’re talking helmets and shoulder pads for all the players, and that runs you maybe $4,000. Then we have $4,000 in insurance, plus the officials cost you another $3,000 to $4,000, and we haven’t even got the players on the field yet,” Depoalo said. “We also get the kids some nice jerseys. When you add up all the costs, our budget is probably $30,000.”
Depoalo added that some added expenses came about with unexpected travel costs.
“Once you win your own division locally, you’ve got to go on the road,” he said. “We were hoping to get a local game. Last week, we had a three-hour drive to get to a noon game, and we had to get there two hours early. So we decided to put the kids in a hotel. The bus cost $1,700, the hotel cost $1,500, and we spent another $1,500 feeding the players and the cheerleaders. That was a big hit for us. And this week, we’ve got to do the same thing.”
Funding for this playoff game was not in the team’s budget.
The Schenectady/Belmont Raiders Pop Warner program, which started in 1960, has already won nine Super Bowl titles, and Depoalo, who has been associated with the organization for 50 years, thinks this team can win another.
“We’ve won our own local title back-to-back,” he said. “These kids are great, and we have some tremendous parents that stand by me and our great coaching staff, that includes George Rose. We have fun, and we try to keep it real by treating the kids special. I think the main reason for our success is that we love each other, and we’ll win because of that. That’s our message.”
Depoalo said his team includes two females, Cerena Horton and Gaustice Jackson. His other top players are quarterback Nacier Huntley and running back Marcus Gibson.
Anyone wishing to financially assist Schenectady/Belmont Junior Midget Pop Warner can go to https://de.gofund.me/ee8etqa4 or send donations to 183 Droms Road, Schenectady, NY 12302.
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