Penn-Trafford midget football program continues success
As perennial visitors to the league playoffs, the Penn-Trafford midget football program is continuing its success this season.
The program saw two of its three midget divisions, 112- and 133-pound divisions, make it to the Keystone Bantam League playoffs, which begin this weekend.
The Braves, the 133-pound team, filled with 10- and 11-year olds, beat Steel Valley 36-12 Sunday to finish in second place in the league. The Indians, the 112-pound team, filled with 7- to 9-year olds, suffered their first loss, 22-8, to Steel Valley to finish in second place.
The Braves and Indians will both play Morningside this weekend. The location of the games was scheduled to be determined by the results of a shootout for second place on Wednesday night at Gateway High School.
“I think we have a winning program ever year. Our coaches stay at one level and don't move with the kids,” Braves coach Sam DeNillo Jr. said. “Our coaches have stayed with the program for 20 to 25 years. I have other coaches that have stayed for 10 years. We get to teach the fundamentals of football, and the program doesn't change year to year.”
The Penn-Trafford midget football program is a family affair for the DeNillos, as three generations are involved in the program.
Sam DeNillo Sr. has been involved with the program for 40 years. His two sons, Sam Jr. and Moe, are the head coaches of the Braves and Indians, respectively, while Sam DeNillo III is a member of the Braves' coaching staff.
Both Moe DeNillo and Sam DeNillo Jr. have coached for more than 30 years, but they prefer staying at the midget level rather than coaching high school football.
“I have coached at the high school level for the freshman team, but I decided to go back to the midget program,” Sam DeNillo Jr. said. “We enjoy coaching with our father. We believe in the program, and we will always do. We do it for the joy of the game.
“It's great watching them going up through the ranks and playing on the high school team,” Moe DeNillo said. “I have coached kids who are 30 years old now, and I'm coaching their kids now. On the high school team, half the offensive line and whole backfield played for me. It's rewarding to watch them develop.”
Even though the players are just trying to learn the fundamentals of football, such as tackling, some have made a strong impression.
The Indians have been led by running back Cade Yacamelli and quarterback Carter Green, while the Braves have been led by running back Caleb Lisbon and quarterback Tony Zona.
“It's not all about football. We teach them how to be good young men,” Moe DeNillo said. “We talk about their grades and doing well in school. Also, we make sure to teach them how to be nice to people and working hard for things in life. All the positions are earned by the kids. There is no guaranteed playing time.”
Andrew John is a freelance writer.