An overflow crowd gathered Monday in council chambers at Lower Burrell City Hall, but it wasn’t a hot topic or controversial that packed the room.
Instead, double Super Bowl wins by the city’s youth football teams — the Lower Burrell Flyers and Recruits — drew the crowd.
City council and Mayor Rich Callender invited the two teams to city council’s regular meeting to honor and recognize the accomplishments of the players and coaches.
Each football player was presented a special commemorative certificate from the city.
Callender praised the wins of both teams. A member of the Allegheny Youth Football League, the Flyers’ players are age 12 and under, while the Recruits players are 8 and under.
The Flyers were the No. 1 seed for the Super Bowl with a 7-1 record during the regular season. They handily beat West Mifflin, 46-24, in the playoffs Oct. 19 and then went on to best Deer Lakes, the No. 2 seed, for the Super Bowl, 24-6, at Burrell High School on Oct. 26.
The Recruits were the No. 2 seed with a season record of 7-1. They won against Guyasuta, 32-24, in the playoffs and beat the No. 1 seed, Ford City, 8-0, for the Super Bowl, also at Burrell on Oct. 26.
“It was awesome to be recognized,” Flyers coach Shawn Mele said. “Without the kids and the parents that bring them to practice and support the program, we wouldn’t be where we are at. But to have the city recognize the teams is even better. I mean how many times do you get to go to a City Hall meeting and it’s about you? It was definitely a pretty exciting experience.”
Earlier this season, the Burrell High School football team turned in its first winning record since 2012 and second-year coach Shawn Liotta has made it a priority to reestablish the program from the bottom up, starting at the youth levels.
Throughout the course of the season, Mele had Liotta and some of the varsity players come by Flyers practices to help build a bridge between the programs. After winning their first Super Bowl title since 2015, it looks like program is well on it’s way.
“People are starting to come out to the games, and people are starting to come out and support the youth,” Mele said. “We had some of the high school players and coaches come down to a few of the games, and it’s like a family reunion when the older kids come back to the Flyers and stand on the sideline and cheer for the younger kids. It’s definitely nice.”
In addition, Flyers players have had the opportunity to serve as ball boys at the Burrell Bucs home games, and before the beginning of the youth season the Flyers organized four Sundays of flag football to draw interest in the program.
Growing and establishing a successful football program starts from the youth level and with help from Liotta and the high school staff, Mele and the Flyers organization are starting to trend in the right direction.
“We’re a feeder program, and it’s our job to feed into the high school,” Mele said. “It’s easier when you are on the same page with the high school and the middle school, and it’s easier to progress the kids through the system, and it’s very nice to be working with (Liotta).”