Youth Football: Junior Vikings take aim at two titles
By Steve Metsch email@example.com November 29, 2012 8:04PM
Coach Jim Calderone (right) starts Jarrvon Huskey (27) on a running drill for the 12U Homewood-Flossmoor Jr. Vikings. | Karen Gioia~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 1, 2013 6:06AM
Any time a team has a chance to win a national title is exciting.
But when two teams from one organization both can win national titles, the excitement level is off the charts.
Such is the case for the Homewood-Flossmoor Junior Vikings football organization, which is sending not one but two teams to the United Youth Football League National Championship.
Starting Saturday, the Junior Vikings 10U and 12U teams will be trying to win titles at Plant City, Fla. They already might feel like winners, given the mission calls for a week’s stay in Florida in December.
Besides, the 10U team, coached by Mike Madonia, already has a national title to its credit.
“The 10U team, believe it or not, won it all as a 9U team last year,” 12U coach James Calderone said. “It’s a smaller bracket, but it’s still a national title.”
That team of boys ages 10 and 9 has been together for four years and has put together a record that would be the envy of all college football programs.
“In four years they’re 44-1. They have a phenomenal team. The coaches and kids have been together for a long time. They are what you would call a well-greased team,” Calderone said.
Then again, so is the 12U team.
“There are a lot of good athletes in this community,” Calderone said.
It’s been a long road, as the first practice was held July 23. The Junior Vikings is a popular program, with 250 football players and 50 cheerleaders.
The tournament runs through Dec. 8, and, yes, kids usually are in school on the weekdays. Provisions have been made.
“We got the letter sent out to the principals explaining why these kids are asking for homework in advance and wanting to be excused from school for a week. The schools are pretty cooperative, and most of the kids are getting their work done before we leave,” Calderone said.
Still, there will be study sessions held in Florida during the weeklong getaway.
One of the biggest challenges won’t be doing schoolwork, but trying to avoid injury on what promises to be a grueling week of football.
If there are eight teams in a bracket, that means the winner has to win three games. Sixteen teams? The champ must go 4-0.
“So we’re talking about three or four games in six or seven days. That’s half the battle. What would be a bruise that was well healed in a week is not necessarily better in two days. A banged-up knee that gets better in a week isn’t better a few days later,” Calderone said.
The war of attrition will be demanding and the team that avoids the most key injuries likely will wind up on top.
On the plus side, the rules prevent teams from having to play on consecutive days, Calderone said.
There will be time set aside for fun — a day at the beach, a visit to Disney World.
Parents are responsible for covering the cost of the journey. Football parent Tyrone Stone appreciates all the hard work invested into the teams.
“Our volunteer coaches have been able to provide not only our boys but also our young ladies with some very real, practical life lessons,” he wrote in an email to the SouthtownStar.
“Not too many people in the community are aware of how wonderful these programs and their volunteers are,” Stone wrote.
Some of the former Junior Vikings have gone to play college football, Calderone said, and five players from the program were on the Mount Carmel team that won a Class 8A state championship Nov. 24.