The popularity of youth football in Tracy and Mountain House has leveled off this year with five football organizations, some with full rosters at all levels, others still seeking players — and a sixth program shutting its doors .
Returning to the gridiron are the Tracy Junior Bulldogs and Tracy Cougars, who both had championship teams in the Delta Youth Football League. The Tracy Buccaneers return after having one championship team last year in the Delta Youth Sports Association-Nor Cal, and the Tracy Rampage begins its second year in the DYSA-Nor Cal.
All four teams will play home games at Tracy, West and Kimball high schools on a rotating basis.
The Mountain House Hurricanes are also growing, this year competing in the San Jose Police Activities League and playing home games at Mountain House High School.
Panther Youth Football has shut down after five years in town.
Tracy Junior Bulldogs
The oldest youth football program in town, the Tracy Junior Bulldogs, is in its 41st year, though for most of those years it was the Tracy Raiders.
The Junior Bulldogs sent three of their four teams to the Delta Youth Football League Super Bowl last year. Two of them, junior novice and novice, won their league titles, while the varsity team was league runner-up.
Once again, the Junior Bulldogs are full at the lower levels.
“Novice, we have too many, so we’re going to have to move kids,” Junior Bulldogs president Jonathan Blackwell said. “We can cut (players) in our league, but I don’t want to, so we’ll move kids up and down to make sure that we don’t (cut kids).”
Blackwell added that the Junior Bulldogs still needed to fill their varsity roster, which will include mostly seventh- and eighth-graders. As of this week, the varsity team had 19 players, 18 boys and one girl, and Blackwell said that one of the parents in the organization has offered to sponsor registration fees for at least five more players.
The Junior Bulldogs will have their first three games on the road, starting with the Northwest Stockton Trojans at Lincoln High on Aug. 31. The first home games will be Sept. 27 against the Manteca Timberwolves at Kimball High.
The Tracy Cougars, beginning their 12th year, will also compete in the Delta Youth Football League.
Cougars president John Harvey said the team was still taking players at all four levels. So far, 106 players have signed up, including 15 on the varsity team. Harvey said the Cougars would waive fees for eighth-graders who want to sign up for the varsity team.
The Cougars sent their junior varsity team to the DYFL Super Bowl and beat the Northwest Stockton Trojans for the league title.
Harvey, who coached that team, is looking for a repeat on that level.
“We have a pretty good amount coming back from that team,” Harvey said. “There’s a few that moved up. We also have some that moved up from the novice team to the JV (who were) on my novice team two years ago when we won the Super Bowl.”
The junior novice level, ages 6 to 8, got an influx of new players this year, which Harvey hopes will build the program for future years.
The Cougars open their season on the road Aug. 30 at Lathrop High against the Lathrop Spartans. Their first home game will be the next week, Sept. 6, against the North Stockton Bengals at Tracy High.
Tracy Buccaneers president James Brakkee said the new season was also a new start as the Buccaneers get into their 11th year.
The Buccs had one Delta Youth Sports Association-Nor Cal champion in 2013 after the Rookie team beat the Manteca Cowboys in the DYSA Nor Cal Super Bowl.
Brakkee said that repeated success would depend on how well the organization’s newcomers adapted.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces, a lot of new coaches,” he said. “This is probably our best start in a while. Everything is going smooth.”
The Buccaneers don’t make cuts, but they do limit sign-ups at all four levels on a first-come, first-served basis. Brakkee said that many players and coaches moved over to the Mountain House Hurricanes and Tracy Rampage, but new players and coaches joined the Buccs this year.
“Sometimes people leave, and the people who came in are super friendly,” Brakkee said. “A lot of people are willing to help.”
The Buccaneers begin their regular season Aug. 23 at home against the Central Valley Panthers. The venue for the game has not been confirmed.
Mountain House Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are starting their third year with a new league and a new stadium.
The Mountain House team will now compete mostly with Bay Area teams through the San Jose Police Activities League.
“We just wanted a change,” Hurricanes president Mo Kaho’onei said. “We have a lot of families that are from the Bay Area. When we made the change, they were very happy, because Grandma and Grandpa and family members are able to come and watch the grandkids.”
The San Jose P.A.L. has five divisions —Mighty Mites, Junior Pee Wee, Pee Wee, Junior Midget and Midget — with kids from age 6 in the Mighty Mites and up to eighth grade in the Midget division. Each division is based on the players’ age and weight.
“You’re playing great teams every single week,” Kaho’onei said. “We get to play feeder systems for the big high schools in the Bay Area.”
The Hurricanes have 110 players among the five divisions practicing at Questa School and are still taking sign-ups, Kaho’onei said.
Also new this year, the Hurricanes will play in the stadium at Mountain House High School, which opens this month.
“We’re excited to play in the stadium and represent Mountain House. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Kaho’onei said.
The schedule for the 2014 season hasn’t been confirmed, but the San Jose P.A.L. begins play Aug. 30 and the Hurricanes are on the road for the first two weeks. The first home game will be Sept. 13 against a team to be announced.
The newest youth football program in town, the Tracy Rampage, begins its second year enjoying a surge in popularity.
“We are completely full at all levels, while the other teams are not. We’re turning people away,” Rampage president Chris Lavagetto said. “Our first sign-up, we signed up more kids than we had our entire year last year.”
He noted that the Rampage had 106 players and nine cheerleaders in its inaugural year in 2013 and now has about 140 football players and 42 cheerleaders.
“We’ve got some of the coaches here from some of the other programs who wanted to try out something new, something fresh,” Lavagetto said.
He said that the two youngest of the four divisions, the Starts and the Rookies, made it as far as their division championships in the first year. The goal this year is not just to repeat that success, but to create a stable program, he said.
The Rampage plays in the Delta Youth Sports Association-Nor Cal, and will start the season on the road Aug. 23 against the Modesto Raiders. The first home game will be Aug. 30 against the House Warriors of Modesto. The local venue for the home opener has not been announced.
Contact Bob Brownne at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4227.