Friday, September 23, 2005

Empire Football League Engages Area Youth for Play Football Month Activities

Nine Semi-Pro teams give back to the community to share their love of football

Empire Football League Engages Area Youth for Play Football Month Activities Nine Semi-Pro teams give back to the community to share their love of football

The Empire Football League (EFL) currently has nine active teams, all of which have been hosting Play Football Month events.  Their celebrations include youth flag football competitions, skills clinics, NFL Punt, Pass & Kick, youth football nights, and military appreciation night.

“Upon discussion with Empire Football League members and sharing our collective career experiences as a result of football, we were inspired to make Play Football Month a league project which would allow us the opportunity to give something back by supporting and recognizing our youth starting out on their life’s journey,” said EFL Commissioner Dave Burch. 

Founded in 1969, the EFL was launched with five franchises hailing from New York State.  As an amateur league, neither players nor coaches are paid.  Currently, the league’s active teams are Broome County Dragons (Binghamton), Albany Metro Mallers, Lake City Stars (Plattsburgh), Orange County Bulldogs (Monroe), St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers (Potsdam), Watertown Red & Black, Scranton Eagles, Montreal Titans, and Ottawa Deacon Demons.  During the season, teams use high school and municipal stadiums for games and later compete in league playoffs for the EFL title.

As a member of the American Football Association (AFA), EFL league champions are eligible to compete in the AFA’s national post-season tournament.  Created in 1980 by Ronald J. Real, the AFA was designed as a non-profit dedicated to advancing and promoting semi-pro/minor league football in the U.S and to conducting an annual post-season championship tournament for said teams.

The names of players and head coaches from every team to win an AFA’s Semi-Pro National Championship in the past 25 years are engraved on the Arthur S. Arkush Memorial Cup. Currently with 1277 engravings, the cup is symbolically awarded to the team winning the championship each year.  The EFL has had a team win the national championship twice.

A handful of EFL players have entered the National Football League over the years.  One of the more notable players Ray Seals, formerly of the Syracuse Express, played ten years in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Carolina Panthers starting in 1986.

Among the many events that brought communities of football fans together were those that involved interaction between semi-pro players and youth.  The Lake City Stars decided to host a free skills clinic for all area youth football players.  The 65 youth players joined 20 Stars players and head coach Ed McCallister, better known as Coach Mac, to participate in a day filled with warm-ups, agilities, and individual position drills.  All youth received a free t-shirt, autograph session, and the opportunity to cheer on the Stars in their game against the Ottawa Deacon Demons later that evening.

The Albany Metro Mallers put together a variety of flag football activities for their area youth throughout the month of September.  Mallers players took part in 4 on 4 games with the youth and also warmed up the kids leading them in a variety calisthenics and agilities exercises.  The Scranton Eagles observed Play Football Month by giving free admission to junior football players and cheerleaders who wore their team jerseys to their game versus the St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers. The Broome County Dragons recognized their local youth football teams by allowing them to display their talents during a halftime football game.

 “We felt that the football opportunity provides our youth a solid foundation for life’s journey with lessons in teamwork, perseverance, humility, respect, leadership,” said Burch.  “I can’t think of any other sport that can be so rewarding on so many levels.”

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