In a league of their own | NevadaAppeal.com

In a league of their own

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Israel "Coach Papa" Lewis gives his players last minute advice before their Scholars and Champions Youth Football League game against the USC Trojans on Sunday.
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Seventeen blue jerseys huddle around coach Israel Lewis on the sideline of the field at Carson High School on Sunday afternoon.

“Are we still having fun,” he asks his players.

“YES COACH PAPA,” they scream back in unison.

After all, that’s what the Scholars and Champions Youth Football league is based on, not winning, but just letting kids play the game and have fun.

“This league was started to give the kids more of an opportunity to play football. There seemed to be a significant portion of kids who wanted to play and didn’t get to,” said league coordinator Rick Keema.

The league, formed in August 2005, is designed to encourage participation in the sport for all children who want to play. The rules require that every child play at least one half of every game.

They play two seasons, one in the fall which begins in August and a shorter season in the spring. The league is nonprofit and is funded through sponsorships.

“We don’t allow our kids to fund-raise. We don’t think that’s their job,” Keema said.

The teams are named for college programs similar to their uniform color, meaning Lewis’ team is the Air Force Falcons.

Sunday, they were slated to play the USC Trojans.

Quarterback Colby Brown, 10, wasn’t concerned about who his opponent was, he just wanted to play.

“It’s fun and it’s contact, so I like it. Football is probably my favorite thing to do,” Brown said. “I think I’m a bigger threat running the ball than through the air today.”

Colby’s dad, Eddy Brown, agreed.

“We play football four or five nights a week,” Brown said. “This league is less competitive and it lets the kids play, it gives kids who wouldn’t normally be able to the opportunity to get some knowledge of the game.

Israel’s son Ikela Lewis, 9, who plays both offense and defense, said he just wants to play and have a good game.

“There’s quite a bit I like about football. I like playing because it’s physical and if you get mad you can use it,” Ikela said. “I want to play professional football some day, hopefully for the (Baltimore) Ravens or the (Atlanta) Falcons.”

One of the unique aspects of the league is the focus on academics. Athletes are required to submit weekly progress reports and complete goal sheets.

“We don’t expect them to be straight-A students, but they need to be focused on the academics as well as the athletics,” Keema said.

For the Falcons, that also means presenting a speech on the topic of their choice during their end-of-the-year party.

“No speech, no trophy,” Lewis tells them.

Also, all parents, teachers and coaches are required to sign a code of conduct and rowdy or unruly behavior on the field or in the stands is not tolerated.

“Does it work all the time? No, not all the time, but we try to proctor it the best we can and provide a positive environment,” Keema said.

Because the teams are chosen using a blind draft, it makes them more equally matched. The Air Force versus USC game was no exception.

It was a long touchdown run by Colby with just over a minute left that broke a 13-13 tie and sealed the Air Force win. Ikela finished with eight tackles and a touchdown run of his own.

But after the game, Lewis’ focus wasn’t on the score, but the experience.

“I just want the kids to enjoy themselves. To get some exercise, learn camaraderie and teamwork and just have a good time,” Lewis said. “No matter what they score says, they had fun.”

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.




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