The leaders of the two Cape Coral Pop Warner football and cheer programs are confident this will be one of the best years ever for their respective associations.
They have every reason to be, seeing that their football ranks are almost bursting at the seams and cheer has about as much talent as it has ever had.
Cape Junior, located off Del Prado behind Caloosa Middle School, has the maximum amount of players at all levels, contradicting the recent trend of smaller numbers at many associations.
Robert Tejada, a Junior Midget football player for Cape Youth, participates in a drill during a recent practice at the Storms Complex on Chiquita Boulevard.
"Our numbers are OK, they went down a little, but just by a few players," said president Jay Taylor. "Every other sport is going year round, and that has an effect, as does a new football league springing up."
Football has about 210 players (six teams with the max 35 players) and has filled the midget program, which has been a problem with other programs, especially to the north.
"It's getting tougher to keep them, but you have to work for it to get to those kids," Taylor said. "You have to start at the lower levels and work on them."
Unlike the football program, which struggled last season, Cape Junior had another huge year in cheer, where five teams reached nationals, placing in the top five. Many of those cheerleaders return this year, according to cheer coordinator Dottie Reynolds.
"Numbers are good. We have 125 cheerleaders. Of them 30 to 40 are new. That's a boost to the program," Reynolds said. "We fully expect to go straight to nationals this year. Champions are made in practice."
Meanwhile, on Chiquita Boulevard, the Cape Youth program was putting in some hard work on the eve of the beginning of contact drills.
There was heavy action on the three fields, which was about what is needed to fit all the participants.
Cape Youth's numbers are even better than their counterparts. So much better that they will field three Tiny-Mite teams this season, said president Todd Williams.
"We have 62 Tiny Mites and a lot of younger cheerleaders as well. Scheduling is difficult, but the Peace River Conference was great with scheduling," Williams said. "Every week we'll have games for them."
Williams estimated close to 400 total kids, with 260 football players on rosters that are at or close to full. With the recent success of the program (last year's Junior Midgets won the conference championship in Division 2), it has been promoted to Division 1 in the newly realigned, three-division Peace River Conference.
"We had the third-highest winning percentage over the last three years, which bumped us up with Fort Myers, North Fort Myers, Charlotte, Riverdale," Williams said.
Cheer is also strong with 140 girls covering its eight teams. According to cheer coordinator Dana Baird, more than 30 of those will cheer for Tiny-Mites.
"We had no national teams, but we had four reach regionals," Baird said. "This number is actually a little low. Normally we're maxed out on cheer (which would be between 180 and 200).
Baird also said she will have two small dance teams in Junior Pee-Wee and Midget, which no other program has in the conference except for Fort Myers. Last season, Baird didn't have the numbers to field dance squads.
"We have a great group of coaches that everyone is eager to advance past regionals," Baird said.