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Mt. Pleasant midget football strives to recruit players

John Poole | For The Mt. Pleasant Journal - Running back Jessie Yourish (44) of the United Steelers senior team advances the ball during a recent Mt. Pleasant Area Junior Football League game at Hurst Stadium in Norvelt. Photo taken on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>John Poole  |  For The Mt. Pleasant Journal</em></div>Running back Jessie Yourish (44) of the United Steelers senior team advances the ball during a recent Mt. Pleasant Area Junior Football League game at Hurst Stadium in Norvelt.  Photo taken on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013
John Poole | For The Mt. Pleasant Journal - Linebacker Zack Bibel (44) of the Donegal Browns senior team in action during a recent Mt. Pleasant Area Junior Football League game at Hurst Stadium in Norvelt. Photo taken on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>John Poole  |  For The Mt. Pleasant Journal</em></div>Linebacker Zack Bibel (44) of the Donegal Browns senior team in action during a recent Mt. Pleasant Area Junior Football League game at Hurst Stadium in Norvelt.  Photo taken on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013
John Poole | For The Mt. Pleasant Journal - Running back Luke Pieszak (28) of the Shaft Cardinals senior team in action during a recent Mt. Pleasant Area Junior Football League game at Hurst Stadium in Norvelt. Photo taken on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>John Poole  |  For The Mt. Pleasant Journal</em></div>Running back Luke Pieszak (28) of the Shaft Cardinals senior team in action during a recent Mt. Pleasant Area Junior Football League game at Hurst Stadium in Norvelt.   Photo taken on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
John Poole | For The Mt. Pleasant Journal - Midget on a mission Running back Dylan Rodgers (34) of the Mt. Pleasant Packers senior team recently makes a cut during a Mt. Pleasant Area Junior Football League game at Hurst Stadium in Norvelt. Photo taken on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>John Poole  |  For The Mt. Pleasant Journal</em></div>Midget on a mission  Running back Dylan Rodgers (34) of the Mt. Pleasant Packers senior team recently makes a cut during a Mt. Pleasant Area Junior Football League game at Hurst Stadium in Norvelt.  Photo taken on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013

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By John Poole
Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Though the Mt. Pleasant Area Junior Football League (MPAJFL) is closing in on its 50th anniversary, head Commissioner Brian Ruff said he fears for its future.

Lagging numbers of participants are the cause for his concern, he said.

There are three divisions in the league, including a freshman team (fourth grade and younger), a junior team (fifth and sixth graders), and a senior team (seventh and eighth graders).

At present, all five teams in both the junior and senior leagues are forced to play 9-on-9 player football games, with 12 to 15 players on each team because there aren't enough substitutes to play the customary 11-on-11 player football.

The freshman division is the only one in the league whose members can still play 11-on-11 player football as a newcomers continually come out to give the sport a try.

The league has been in existence for 48 years.

“You drive by houses, and you don't see kids playing pickup football outside how they use to when I was a kid,” Ruff said. “Now there is too much technology and kids don't have any interest in the sport.”

If participation among the area's youth continues to lag, the league might have to go to a draft to even team numbers in an effort restore itself to consistent, 11-on-11 player football games, Ruff said.

In the worst-case scenario, Ruff said, the league would have to split up and join together as one team and play in a travel league.

“We really don't want to see that happen, we have five teams in a division and 12 plus kids on a team, and if they are paying to play (together), how do you get 60 kids on to the field into one game,” Ruff asked.

MPAJFL President Rick Albright said the league has attracted attention from other county midget football associations about the possibility of their players joining the league.

“They like what we're doing, and they might come join us,” Albright said. “But they're getting tired of traveling.”

Albright said the variety of other sports going on at the same time as football also hinder participation.

“There's so many other sports for kids to take part in, and that hurts us,” he said.

The league is currently working to expose all of its coaches to USA Football's Heads Up program, which offers accreditation courses on concussion awareness and player safety, Albright said.

“I've attended classes in concussion prevention, dehydration prevention changes to tackling technique,” he said. “We're trying all the coaches certified in these courses.”

Those seeking more information on the league can contact Ruff at 724-610-8943 or Albright at 724-331-6296.

The league's website is leaguelineup.com/mpajfl.

John Poole is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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