Football sign ups start today

The 64th year of Optimist Youth Football League play is set to begin in September and signups will take place beginning today and running through the following two Sundays.

Registration will take place from 1-4 p.m. today as well as Aug. 18 and Aug. 25 at the Baytown Optimist Club, 1724 Market Street.

The first games will be played Sept. 14 at Robert E. Lee High School and the Super Bowl will be at Stallworth Stadium on Oct. 26.

Games are every Saturday morning with elementary schools in the junior league and middle schools in the senior league playing weekly in a round-robin format.

Teams practice two times a week.

If a school is short of bodies the league will combine numbers to team up with another one.

The league, for ages 7-12, is a point of pride for Optimist Club president Kathy Anderson.

“What we do is teach the basics of football so that when they enter junior high and high school, they know what the coaches expect of them,” Anderson said. “It is more of a teaching league. It’s big here. I believe in the kids and I want them to have the opportunity to play and have something to remember.”

Anderson said her two sons, in their 40s, still talk about their Optimist playing days.

The numbers for the league should increase after some smaller registrations recently according to Anderson. Recent numbers have been around 450 for the league and in the past, eight elementary teams would be full without needing to co-op.

“We probably had six junior highs playing – Mont Belvieu plays with us – and we are local, we don’t travel,” Anderson said.

The junior league consists of (2nd-5th graders) and the senior league consists of 6th grade teams.

The Crocket Crusaders are the defending junior league champions while Cedar-Bayou claimed last year’s senior league title.

“I want them to enjoy this because a lot of them will not go on to play football,” Anderson said. “But out of our league we’ve had football players go on to play professional football.”

Anderson named former Robert E. Lee, University of Arkansas and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Clint Stoerner as one such player.

“We’ve had some great, great players in this league,” Anderson said. “We’ve had a great time in this league.”

Current Sterling Rangers players remember their Optimist League days.

“I loved waking up early on Saturday mornings to play some football,” junior Javier Chavez said. “I liked the postgame snacks even more and the feeling of a win? Oh man, words can’t explain. The Super Bowl really felt like the super bowl. Playing under the lights and having numbers painted on the field was just awesome.”

Sophomore Noah Lister remembers his time as quite the experience as well, playing for the Optimist All-Stars.

“We played for Coach Robert Haggerty, who I’ve known for a long time and we put up some good numbers against some great teams from all over Houston,” Lister said. “It brought guys from different teams together and most of us are still friends today because of it.”

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