August 28, 2019
By Michael James LeClair
Football is back and the Nashoba Youth Football and Cheer Association is ready to tackle the competition. The young athletes have been hard at work on the practice field getting ready for the start of the 2019 season. League President Susan Unger, in her first year as president, recently talked about the excitement surrounding the start of the youth gridiron season.
“This year is particularly exciting for us as we’ve joined forces with our neighbors in Maynard to create four single-grade teams with over 90 athletes,” said Unger. “By doing so, it gives players an opportunity to play at a more competitive level with other athletes in the same grade. One of the big goals I have for this year is to find new ways to enrich the kids.”
Unger explained, “We brought in a Quarterback Coach to run a clinic for our QBs and Receivers, Nashoba Regional High School athletes have been coming over to help, and we are always looking for opportunities to help our athletes grow both on and off the field. We’re very excited about the direction we are headed and we’re fortunate to have a great staff who really cares about the kids and the program.”
NYFC is a member of the Central Massachusetts Youth Football & Cheer Conference (CMYFCC) that includes teams from the towns of Hudson, Ayer-Shirley, Marlboro, Maynard, Charlton-Dudley, Westford-Littleton, Lunenburg, Leominster and Fitchburg. The Nashoba/Maynard teams include athletes from Bolton, Stow, Lancaster, Maynard, and Harvard, plus a few kids from other surrounding towns.
On a recent Thursday evening, Nashoba Regional High School varsity head football coach Jamie Tucker spent a few minutes addressing the younger athletes about what it means to be a Chieftain. He stressed the importance of a strong work ethic, not only on the football field but also in the classroom. He talked about playing not only for yourself but also to support your teammates and coaches. He ended his speech with the high school’s motto, “Once a Chieftain, always a Chieftain.”
“Having Coach Tucker come out and talk to these guys was really important. Any integration we can have with the high school, especially in a sport like football, is helpful as we prepare our youth athletes to participate at the high school level,” Unger said.
Nashoba will field football teams at the fourth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade and eighth grade levels this fall. Most teams will share their home games between Nashoba Regional High School and Maynard High on Tiger Drive in Maynard. Grade 8 will play all their home games at Nashoba.
“There’s a real sense of excitement around this group; they’ve been playing together since the spring Flex football season in April,” said eighth grade Head Coach Joe McLaughlin, known affectionately as Coach Mac. “We have 23 Nashoba athletes, including one player from Littleton. Several of our athletes are new to tackle football, and each one is working hard and showing growth, teamwork and improvement.”
The Nashoba eighth-grade team opened its season on the short end of a 12-6 decision against Fitchburg on Aug. 24.
Zachary Hodges is a player on the sixth-grade team. Hodges has been playing in the league since the third grade and plays quarterback on offense and cornerback on defense. Hodges talked about the sense of excitement surrounding the start of another season.
“Getting a chance to be a part of this program is awesome because I like sports where I can be physical and work as a team,” he said with a smile.
The Nashoba sixth-grade team had a week one bye and will open its season on Aug. 31 against Auburn.
Not to be overlooked are the NYFC cheerleaders who were hard at work practicing on the grass adjacent to the high school. Cheer Director and 10U Head Coach Arianna Keebaugh was on hand to talk about the cheerleading side of the program and praised the efforts of her athletes.
“We have 40 girls that are spread out over three cheerleading teams. We have an 8U team, a 10U and a 14U team. We’d like to get more girls involved and build that number up to over 50 girls with the addition of Maynard to our program,” said Keebaugh. “The girls are working hard and deserve a lot of credit. They’re out here, just like the boys. They are a great group and a lot of fun to be around.”