Youth Football Jamboree Season Kickoff

By Michael James LeClair

Nashoba eighth-grade quarterback Troy Barksdale goes back to pass during Saturday's jamboree against Tyngsborough at Gardner High School.       Michael LeClair

Nashoba eighth-grade quarterback Troy Barksdale goes back to pass during Saturday’s jamboree against Tyngsborough at Gardner High School. Michael LeClair

The Nashoba American Youth Football League officially kicked off on Saturday with all of its teams in action at the 2014 Central Mass. North Jamboree hosted by the Chair City Lions out of Gardner.

A total of four Nashoba squads were in action spread out throughout the day on Saturday at Gardner High School.
“I thought the jamboree went very well. It went very smoothly,” said Nashoba AYF president and seventh-grade assistant coach Dan Keough. “Everyone involved is really excited about the start of the season. Each team held its own on Saturday and we’re looking forward to a solid year of Nashoba football.”

Despite Keough’s squad falling to Littleton in Sunday’s jamboree it did little to extinguish the optimism about the upcoming season and feels his Chiefs squad will make some big strides this fall.

“The seventh-grade team did OK, there were a few things we could have done a little better but there were a lot of positives,” said Keough. “As a coach you’re trying to teach these kids the game and help them improve daily. It’s not easy but they are a hard working group of kids and they will continue to get better.”

Also making the trip to Gardner on Saturday was the Nashoba fourth-grade team, who battled Leominster, the sixth-grade team as they tangled with Tyngsborough and the eighth-grade squad as it also lined up against Tyngsborough.

“We lost today but I thought our defense played pretty well. Offensively, we still need a little work,” said seventh-grade player Aidan Lee following his team’s game on Saturday. “I really like this team. I think we have plenty of talent. We’ve played two scrimmages before today and won them both so we are really excited and looking forward to our first game of the season.”

Lee plays both sides of the ball for Nashoba, lining up as a linebacker on the defensive side and a running back when the Chiefs are in possession of the ball.

Nashoba eighth-grade head coach Joe Kennedy was filled with optimism walking off the field following his team’s jamboree performance against the Tigers.

W football1“This is just a jamboree to see where   we are but I thought we came out pretty strong and had a great three weeks of training leading up to today,” said Kennedy, whose charges open their season at home against the eighth-graders from Leominster this weekend. “We did lose three kids to injury just last week so we are down to 13 kids, we had some adjustments to make entering this one. Several kids are playing multiple positions but they’re working real hard and they’re learning what we are trying to teach them.”

With games beginning as early as 8 a.m on Saturday morning a total of 16 teams participated in the jamboree. Each game featured two 20 minute running time halves and was played on a 50-yard field. Using only half a field allowed for another jamboree game to be played on the other half of the field.

“It’s a small group with 16 kids total like I said before but there is a ton of heart,” said Kennedy. “Historically, it’s a group that hasn’t won a lot of games but it’s a group that loves playing football, they come to practice early and they stay late and they come in with a never say die attitude. They’re great to be around.”

All the Chiefs teams play their home games at Nashoba Regional High School and each squad will begin the 2014 season on familiar turf, at home. The fourth-grade team hosts Chair City while the sixth-graders welcome Leominster and the seventh-grade unit will share the gridiron with Groton/Dunstable in week one. Grade eight will face Leominster in their season-opener.