Watching the NFL Hall of Fame Game on Sunday gave everyone a real reminder that another football season is upon us.
It won't be long before the local football programs play games that matter. Among them is the Lee County Hawks, based in Cape Coral.
This weekend, on Aug. 9-10, the Southwest Florida Youth Football League (SWFYFL) team is hosting the annual Fall Football Classic at Mariner High School against teams from as far away as Sarasota and Miami.
Games begin Saturday at 9 a.m. in 30-minute increments with two, 10-miunute running clock quarters, finishing at 9 p.m. Sunday's games go from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. All teams will play three games.
The Hawks play by a slightly different set of rules than their counterparts in Pop Warner, according to Frank Connelley, commissioner of the Hawks program, who said that the bigger kids were getting left out of the weight-limit leagues like Pop Warner.
"The biggest difference is we're not a weighted program. We just do it by age in two-year increments, regardless of weight," Connelley said. "I knew there was a need for more football in Cape Coral, and we have 230 kids."
The teams are divided in groups of U6, U8, U10, U12 and U14, with the cutoff being eighth grade so as to not interfere with high schools. There are eight programs throughout Lee and Collier counties, with a new one starting up at Ave Maria.
The Hawks alone have eight teams with two squads at the U8, U10 and U12 levels. Connelley said he doesn't believe in turning anyone away. The U14 team has no roster limits. About the only teams lacking in numbers is the U6 squad.
Aside from the U14s, teams have to be split up once they have 36 players in an age group. The U12s, for example, have 26 players to a team, Connelley said.
"We have a draft. We don't stack one team and have the other get its butt kicked," Connelley said. "Getting all the kids in would be a challenge."
Connelley added that most of the teams had done things their own way before this season. Now that everyone is on the same page this year, he said the wheels are in motion for a playoff series.
There is also a cheer program that just started up and therefore isn't that strong yet, Connelley said, adding that with all the new cheer clubs starting up everywhere, even the Pop Warner programs have seen their numbers drop.
Connelley said he is still looking for cheerleaders and players. Those interested need a birth certificate, year-end report card, a physical and the $159 registration fee.
Those interested can call Connelley at 292-4709.