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North Pop Warner kicks off season

August 21, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

It was certainly a much different Pop Warner Jamboree for the North Fort Myers program than it had been used to in the past.

One was the location and teams, as the Red Knights had never played in Venice before and because Cape Junior and Charlotte weren't there. And, of course, there were the usual lightening delays.

But the most important thing that looked unusual was the fact that some of the kids were ratherbig.

Article Photos

North Fort Myers 14U Pop Warner running back Jaiden Jackson makes his way through the Port Charlotte defense during the Jamboree in Venice on Saturday.


The North Fort Myers program is undergoing one of the most abrupt changes in its 55-year history, a change that has put a great amount of uncertainty regarding the entire season.

The Peace River Conference is in the process of ending its practice of building teams according to size in favor of an age-based system that no longer relies on a weight limit for many of its teams.

North got its first taste of that in game conditions Saturday. While the teams more than held their own, there was still much work to be done and a big adjustment to make.

Todd Sheridan, coach of the 10U team, said that despite being rained out quite a bit throughout their first two-plus weeks of practice, his team did quite well.

"We have a lot to work on, especially the coaches, such as better management and communication on the sidelines, but I was impressed with how the kids worked and played their hearts out," Sheridan said.

The "new way" has been an adjustment, Sheridan said, with kids as big as 230 pounds playing against kids who are 80 pounds. That means the coaches have to be smart and not have those two extremes battle in tacking or blocking drills.

Coach Darren Spires of the 14U squad said the main problem was conditioning as a result of the delayed and cancelled practices, a problem many of the other league teams have had.

He also has five or six kids who played Pee-Wee ball last year jumping two levels to play 14U.

"It's a big adjustment for them. We scrimmaged Charlotte and they had everyone who played JV and varsity last year," Spires said. "It's a big adjustment, but we have three homes games to start the season and this Jamboree. We'll be fine."

The new format is expected to help level the playing field, making it very difficult to know who the favorites are. Having other unlimited leagues has also helped to dilute the talent, which Spires said the league will have to catch up to.

In the meantime, the kids are having to adjust, which has been a challenge.

"A lot of Pee-Wee kids jumped and it's a big transition. They're bigger. faster and overall better kids. The best of the best," said Victor Holt, who has played for two years and had to make the transition himself. "The hitting is much harder."

"It's a big transition. I had to jump two levels. The kids are bigger, the plays are harder to work. It's overall harder," said Bryce Duross, a five-year veteran in the Red nights program.



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