By Tony Tsoukalas
Registration began Saturday for the Meridian Youth Football Association, as children ages 8-12 and their parents flocked Northwest Middle School to sign up for one of the leagues three categories.
Children ages 7-8 will take part in the Rookie division, while ages 9-10 will compete in the Midgets division. The teams oldest group will be the Peewees which will be comprised of children 11-12. After day one of registration, the Rookie team had 20 players sign up, while the midgets had 12 and the Peewees had 7. The league typically fields around 25 players per team, but there is no limit on how many players can play for a team.
MYFA, which is the Meridian team for the state’s largest youth football league, Mississippi Youth Football Organization, has helped produce many future Meridian High School Wildcats, including Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell.
“There are a lot of good athletes around here,” MYFA president Paul Lester said. “This is basically just a feeder program for these kids before they go to high school."
Since joining the MYFO around 20 years ago, the youth Wildcats have experienced much of the same success as their high-school counterparts, winning 10 combined state titles in their three divisions.
Children will even get to participate on the same field as the Wildcats, as Meridian plays its home games on Saturday mornings at Ray Stadium.
In fact, Lester said newcomers to the league will be surprised with the level of play demonstrated by the youth, as some of the same plays seen on Friday nights carry over to the next morning,
“It’s fun for the parents too. If you come out and watch one of these games on Saturday morning, these kids really play football. Everything you see on television, the great passes, great tackles, unbelievable run –– it’s all here.
“Even if I wasn’t the president, I’d like to go out and watch it on Saturday. It only costs four dollars to watch the games. Even if you don’t have kids, it’s a great way to come out and support the community.”
Though early registration was held Saturday, it is not too late to sign up for the league. MYFA will hold its late registration on this upcoming Saturday, Aug. 10, once again at Northwest Middle School from 10 a.m. to noon. Registration for the league cost $50 and parents are encouraged to bring along their children’s birth certificate when signing up.
“We teach good sportsmanship, good work ethic and responsibility,” He said. “When you come here, you are going to be taught all of that.”