Norwin Rams, Norwin PAL combine to form Knights Youth Football Organization
For more than 20 years, children in the North Huntington and Irwin communities had to make a tough decision when it came to playing youth football — the Norwin Rams or Norwin PAL.
The choice just became a lot simpler. After three years of discussions and planning, last month the organizations showed the ultimate sign of solidarity by voting unanimously to come together and form the Knights Youth Football Organization.
“We felt this year was the right year to make the move,” KYFO board president Jon Pons said. “It reignited excitement of football in the Norwin community. One month into the merger, and things are going very well and smooth.”
Pons, a 1998 South Allegheny grad who grew up in Glassport, got involved with the Norwin Rams six years ago. He asked a simple question: Why are there two youth organizations?
“The most common thing I heard when I moved here was, ‘That's the way we've always done it,' ” Pons said.
Pons enlisted the help of Allan Bilinsky and Norwin PAL (Police Athletic League) football representative Dan Turkowski to open discussions and facilitate the process of leadership approval.
Norwin was one of the few communities in Western Pennsylvania to support two youth football organizations. Based on the combined enrollment numbers of last year's organizations, KYFO has the potential to dress around 150 football players and 130 cheerleaders.
KYFO will don the blue, white and Vegas gold colors of Norwin High School and compete in the Washington/Greene Youth Football League. The Rams competed in the WGYFL, and its oldest team played in the Division I championship game the last four years. The Rams won two titles over that time.
KYFO will play its home games at Norwin Knights Stadium.
The WGYFL is structured much like the WPIAL: It breaks teams into classes to create a competitive balance. It is the largest youth football league in Western Pennsylvania, boasting more than 70 teams from 23 communities.
With the 2017 signup period opening in the coming weeks, Pons foresees the potential to dress two teams in some age groups. He hopes that with good numbers, the program can give more players game experience.
“The (WGYFL) promotes that, and we're excited about the possibility that we can do that,” Pons said. “It's a numbers game.”
Pons has received nothing but positive feedback from Norwin varsity football coach Dave Brozeski.
“I think (Brozeski) does things for the right reasons,” Pons said. “His big saying is ‘Norwin Pride,' and he really wants to have kids have pride when they put that Norwin jersey on.”
But at the end of the day, it was always about bringing a community together for one common cause — the athletes.
“It's been a long and windy road, but I think we're ending in a really good place,” Pons said.
William Whalen is a freelance writer.