Deer Lakes Youth Football celebrates 30 years
WEST DEER: For 29 seasons, the greatest gift Deer Lakes Youth Football has given its players is the guarantee of playing time, founder Anthony Simonetti said.
Simonetti saw his ideas about playing time in action again on Saturday.
The organization he founded in 1972 with his brother, Dominick, celebrated its 30th anniversary with three youth football games and an alumni contest at the Deer Lakes Middle School field.
One of the organization's original rules stated that players get to participate in every game. Today, players are promised at least four plays, not counting special teams.
"We've produced not just good football players, but good young people," said Simonetti, 69, of Frazer.
"Our aim wasn't to make them stars. Our objective was to give everybody a chance to play football at that early age. We knew once that they went on, not everybody would get a chance to play in the higher-ups."
Deer Lakes Youth Football started with two teams in 1973.
This season, the organization fields football teams, cheerleading squads and dance teams in three age divisions. The football teams are nicknamed the Bucs (ages 7-9), Braves (10-11) and Chiefs (12-13). There also is an instructional group for younger players who aren't ready for competition yet.
About 250 children, including more than 130 football players, in the Deer Lakes School District are involved.
Mike Latronica suited up for Deer Lakes Youth Football in its inaugural season and went on to play at Clarion University. Latronica is the offensive coordinator of the Chiefs team.
"Having the four-play rule gives everybody a chance to play, even the kids who are newer," Latronica said. "They get to be on the field and feel the experience of game situations. That really keeps them there and brings more players in."
All Deer Lakes players usually get much more than four plays, Latronica said.
The Simonetti brothers performed the coin toss and were recognized before the second game at noon.
A 7-on-7 alumni game was held at 4 p.m., with more than 30 former players turning out. Don McDowell, who played at Bucknell, and Tim Burk, a West Deer police officer, served as captains of the maroon and gold teams, respectively. Maroon and gold have remained the colors of the organization.
George Matthews, Bucs head coach, refereed.
"I was kind of sorry early on," said Matthews, who played against the Chiefs in 1974. "The pace had me running up and down the field. And the field was very slick."
Anthony Simonetti left the organization in 1992, after serving as president/chairman for 20 years.
"Seeing the maroon and the gold, seeing the small children, it seemed like the same scene as it was 29 years ago," Simonetti said. "The hard-working parents, the mothers and fathers and coaches, all were as enthused as they were 29 years ago. The people who run it seemed to be working in unison. That gave me a good feeling."