After a successful season last fall, the Johnston Youth Football and Cheer program is ready to take another step forward this upcoming season and make some noise.
The Panthers saw three teams go undefeated in the regular season last year and reach the Super Bowl. With 160 football players and 90 cheerleaders, the program is strong once again as it boasts one of the healthiest feeder systems in the state.
“I’m looking forward to (the season) a lot. We have a lot of great kids, a lot of great parents and we have exciting teams. The goal is to have all these kids learn football skills and football knowledge so they can carry it on to the high school level. We want to see all of these kids be successful playing football. Just to see these kids mature and advance to the next level,” said new JYF president Gary Young.
“This is super exciting, especially at this level. This is a big jump for them in these middle school years, they start to understand the complexities of the game a little bit more. It makes you excited because you can do a little bit more,” added Sloan Lazzareschi, who coaches the JV program and is the league commissioner.
As always, the Panthers are looking to have fun on the field while also keeping a stable program that translates to the high school level.
“We have a great relationship with the high school program and head coach Joey (Acciardo), we have a great relationship with the parks and recreation director (Mike Bedrosian). There’s a strong bond between the youth and high school program and we’re looking to facilitate that even more,” said Young.
Not only is the league looking to help the kids build their games on the field, but it is also looking to use the sport as a tool to guide them off the field and into the future while making the town proud.
“Johnston is a very close knit community which makes it nice because you already know everyone. Football is big here in Johnston. It’s a big event, a big sport, it makes it great. We always have big numbers but this year was exceptional,” said Lazzareschi. “The biggest thing is that these kids learn commitment, discipline and structure. Those are the things that you carry with you throughout life.”