Old Mill, Brook­lyn Park lead­ing the way in county

The Capital - - SPORTS - By Bill Wag­ner bwag­ner@capgaznews.com

It ap­pears the bal­ance of power in the Anne Arun­del Youth Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion has shifted north.

AAYFA cham­pi­onship week­end be­gan on Fri­day with Divi­sion 2 and 3 con­tests be­ing held at An­napo­lis High and Sev­erna Park High.

Divi­sion 1, the most com­pet­i­tive level within the or­ga­ni­za­tion, will con­duct all six of its cham­pi­onships on Satur­day at Sev­erna Park High. Old Mill Youth As­so­ci­a­tion has rep­re­sented strong in this year’s playoffs, ad­vanc­ing four teams to the cham­pi­onship game.

“I would say the No. 1 rea­son for our suc­cess this sea­son has been con­sis­tency,” said Demetrius Bal­lard, com­mis­sioner of the Old Mill Youth As­so­ci­a­tion. “We’ve been blessed with very lit­tle turnover in terms of coaches and other vol­un­teers. Most of our coaches have been with their group of kids since they were five and six years old.”

Old Mill Youth As­so­ci­a­tion was founded in 2007 and turned the cor­ner in terms of com­pet­i­tive abil­ity in 2011, Bal­lard said.

“We made a con­certed ef­fort to re­cruit coaches who would com­mit to help­ing the pro­gram grow,” he said.

Many of the OMYA coaches are for­mer stand­out play­ers at Old Mill High, such as record-set­ting run­ning back Ja­son Cle­ments from the 2009 state cham­pi­onship team. Cle­ments is part of a staff with the 11-Un­der team that is com­prised en­tirely of for­mer Old Mill High foot­ball play­ers.

Last sea­son, Old Mill had four teams in the fi­nals and came away with only one cham­pi­onship.

“Now we’re like the cry­ing Jor­dan meme,” Bal­lard said with a laugh. “Se­ri­ously, I think this is the year we get it done. I would say all our teams ex­cept one are the fa­vorites.”

Bal­lard and AAYFA pres­i­dent Ja­son Clarke are as­sis­tants un­der head coach Drew Hall for the Old Mill 9-un­der team that is def­i­nitely an un­der­dog go­ing against a Brook­lyn Park club that has not lost in three sea­sons. For­mer Arch­bishop Spald­ing foot­ball and bas­ket­ball star Dar­ren “Bat­man” John­son leads that par­tic­u­lar Brook­lyn Park con­tin­gent, which cap­tured cham­pi­onships at the 7-un­der and 8-un­der lev­els.

Brook­lyn Park Youth Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion has three teams com­pet­ing on Divi­sion 1 Cham­pi­onship Day. Com­mis­sioner Ker­win Porter is very proud of that ac­com­plish­ment since BPYAA is one of the small­est pro­grams in Anne Arun­del County with just six to­tal teams.

“Get­ting three of our five Divi­sion 1 teams to the fi­nals means a lot for the pro­gram,” Porter said. “It’s a real tes­ta­ment to the play­ers and the coaches.”

Porter coaches the Brook­lyn Park 14un­der squad along with Do­minick Reid while Dar­ian Maples and Mike New­ton di­rect the 7-un­der (70 pounds) club. New­ton also as­sists John Howard with the 8-un­der (80 pounds) team while John­son will be seek­ing his third straight cham­pi­onship the 9-un­der pow­er­house.

“Our coaches are al­most like fam­ily. We’ve known each other our whole lives,” Porter said. “We love foot­ball and we love work­ing with kids.”

The re­cent emer­gence of Old Mill and Brook­lyn Park as dom­i­nant pro­grams at the Divi­sion I is a de­par­ture from the old days when large or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Gam­brills-Oden­ton Recre­ation Coun­cil and Greater Sev­erna Park Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion sent the most teams to AAYFA Cham­pi­onship Day.

Sev­erna Park has two teams in the Divi­sion I fi­nals this sea­son, but GORC has none.

“A lot of this has to do with lead­er­ship. GORC lost com­mis­sioner Danny Burns and it changed the en­tire tenor of that pro­gram,” said Bal­lard, AAYFA vice pres­i­dent.

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