Sports

Youth football goes big time

The group ends its affiliation with Pee Wees, looks east for rivals.

Don’t call them Pee Wees any more.

The recently constituted Bainbridge Island Junior Football and Cheerleading Association has been accepted into the Greater Eastside Junior Football Association, club official Wayne Houston announced.

“This was quite an accomplishment, as other leagues were turned away,” Houston said.

The GEJFA is described as a “very organized, disciplined and competitive league,” comprised of 17 teams representing Bellevue, Mercer Island, Kirkland, Redmond, Sammamish, Shoreline, Bothell, Woodinville, Issaquah, Renton and Newcastle.

There are six levels of play – Rookie, Cub, Sophomore, Junior Varsity, Varsity and Seniors – for students in grades three through eight.

Players are assigned to teams on a grade-based system.

The move formally ends the program’s long and successful affiliation with Kitsap County Pee Wees and from the local youth basketball program.

It assures the Bainbridge teams of eight games per season, more if they move to tournament play, with “away” games being played in stadium settings on artificial turf.

Players should get more playing time, as the rules say that a coach must empty his bench and replace all of the players on the field after each change of possession. All of the new players must remain on the field for four consecutive plays unless the ball changes hands again.

The league tries to schedule all teams from the same area at the same location, so families can carpool and those with players on different teams can see all of the action on a given day.

All coaches are required to attend clinics, and at least one must be first aid certified. Officiating will be of a higher caliber, Houston said, on par with high school games.

Houston said the organization made the jump after a “senior” team from Bainbridge made a forray into tougher competition against squads from the Eastside and Tacoma, and met with success against the stronger foes.

“Talking to coaches and parents, we are certain that this improvement was directly attributable to the kids stepping up to the challenges of this new league,” Houston said.

Coaches are now needed for the third, fifth, sixth and seventh-grade levels for the 20005 season, and anyone with previous football coaching or playing experience is invited to apply. You do not have to have a child in the program to coach.

The club is setting up a website at www.bainbridgefootball.org, with registration for the coming season beginning this month. The site will also include the rules and by-laws of the new organization.

More information on the new league is available online at www.gejfa.org.

Houston can be reached at 842-3318 or by email at hous26@msn.com.

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