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‘Amazing little athletes’ take field Saturday

It’s been two years since Franklin County’s elementary
school kids played football competitively, with a cheer crew on the sidelines urging
them on.

That’s all going to come to an end this Saturday, as
Franklin County Youth Football and Cheer takes the field in Carrabelle to take
on Port St. Joe at the season-opening Jamboree.

“They are amazing little athletes,” said Lani Rae Segree,
president of FCYFC.

The league, for Franklin County youth ages 5 to 13, has
managed to attract a sizeable number of players, beginning with the Teeny
division, which is nearly entirely for ages 6 to 8, although 5-year-olds have
played provided they meet the eligibility criteria.

Segree said 26 players have signed up with Teeny, which is coached by
Buck Melvin with the help of Assistant Coaches Bubba Mashburn and Dale Butler,
and Assistant Practice Coaches Trey Millender and Larry Hatfield.

For the Tiny division, made up of 9- and 10-year-olds, 21
players have signed up. Their coach is Lelon Gilbert, helped by Assistant Coaches Jonathan
Brown and Matt Roberts, and Assistant Practice coaches Jacob Montalbano and
Ryan McClain.

In the Peewee division, the roster boasts of 18 players,
ranging in age from 11 to 13, coached by Darrian Turner, with Assistant Coaches
Scott Kelly and Levi Odom.

“Darrian Turner is one of best football coaches I have
ever seen,” said Segree. “He is amazing; I toot his horn. He teaches kids
fundamentals, and most of our parents have been coached by him.”

It’s not a matter of kids just walking out on the field Saturday
and having fun doing whatever you want.

Practices are held Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at Vrooman
Park, and the expectation is you have to take part in that learning process, or
don’t expect to be playing.

“Our coaches are crazy fair,” said Segree. “If you don’t
come to a single practice, you may sit on the bench. If you come to practice
all week, they’ll make sure every one of those boys get playing time.

“We have a few kids, some of the littler kids get scared and
they don’t want to go out there (but otherwise) they make sure every kid gets
playing time,” she said.

In 2019, when Franklin County sent its Peewee team to the
Super Bowl, there were seven teams taking part, but since then Sneads has
dropped out, leaving Port St. Joe, Wewahitchka, Blountstown, Liberty,
Chattahoochee and Franklin to battle every Saturday morning from now until the
second week of November.

Last year, COVID forced the league to cancel its season, but
it’s back for 2021, and “we’re going to rock it out and do the best we can,”
Segree said.

This is the first year that there will be cheering for all
three divisions, as the league has doubled the number of girls to 56.

Denisha Allen Alday will be coaching the Peewee cheer squad.
Mackenzie Register, now recovering from a serious car accident, will share
duties with the Tiny girls with co-coach Morgan Thompson. The Teeny coaches are
Casey Roberts and Crystal Millender.

The non-profit league relies nearly entirely on its own
fundraising. Each participant pays $65 to register.

Segree said county parks and recreation tends to the field
in Carrabelle. “We’re the only league in the Big Bend that has its own field
and own concession stand,” she said.

She said the county commission has been supportive in the
past as well. In 2017, the county sprung for the first round of helmets, 80 of
them, and the next year shouldered the cost of pads and pants.

Girls are welcome to play on the field, and have in the
past, but not this season. “This is the first year we don’t have a girl on any
team,” Segree said. “We do not discriminate; if they want to helmet up, we let

The rules are pretty much like those in high school,
although there is no kicking of the pigskin. And there is a weight limit on those
who can carry the ball.

Among the Teeny players, no one over 90 pounds can tote the
ball. For Tiny players, the ball carrier has to be under 120 pounds, and among
Peewees, under 140 pounds.

The action gets underway at 10 a.m. in Carrabelle Saturday
with the youngest division, and then it’s Tiny at 11 a.m. and Peewee at noon.

“We have amazing talent in franklin county,” said Segree.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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