Old Mill, Brooklyn Park leading the way in county
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.