By Pete Legasey
With the season opener just days away, Chelsea Pop Warner football is eagerly awaiting the start of what it hopes will be its most successful season ever. The league will open the 2009 season on September 13 against East Boston at Chelsea High.
There are two major changes that have added a level of excitement to this year’s season for the Junior Red Devils. The program has been switched from Division 1 to Division 2 of the Greater Boston League, which puts the Chelsea teams high on the list of favorites to win the conference championships for their respective age groups.
And, of course, the league is every bit as energized by the fact that, for the first time ever, this season will be offered free of charge to the families of its players and cheerleaders. The elimination of sign-up fees has caused the league’s participation to skyrocket from about 85 kids in ’08 to nearly 200 that are set to open the new season. That number includes over 100 boys set to play football and close to 80 girls that will take part in the cheerleading program.
The only charge that families are paying for their children to be a part of Pop Warner this year is the $25.00 ticket for the league’s end-of-season banquet. Last year, Chelsea Pop Warner charged $110 for each football player to sign up for the league and nearly $550 for each girl to sign up for the cheerleading program. League President Jose Camacho said that the abolishment of fees was made possible by donations from businesses such as Unico Systems and Metro Credit Union, as well as various individual donors, including State Senator Anthony Galluccio.
Just as in recent years, the Chelsea Pop Warner football program will be comprised of five teams that will include players from ages 5-15. The league’s youngest age group, the F Team, will play some of its games under the lights on Friday nights and others on Saturday mornings. The A, B, D and E Teams will all play on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The league’s cheerleading program will once again be directed by Jessie Dabila and include five age groups. In addition to cheering at every Junior Devils football game, the cheerleaders will compete against other squads at Peabody High School on October 3 and October 17. The C Team is coming off of a season in which it won the Division 1 Greater Boston League cheerleading title, and the squad should be even tougher to beat now that the program is part of Division 2.
There is one more change from last season for Chelsea Pop Warner. This year, Camacho was selected to represent the Eastern Conference on the Eastern Mass Pop Warner Director’s Board. Camacho, the first Chelsea Pop Warner official to receive such an honor, will be involved in decisions on rules and regulations that effect not only the Junior Devils and the Greater Boston League, but the other six leagues that comprise the Eastern Conference.
“We are looking forward to an incredible season this year,” Camacho said this week. “One reason being that we have a free season. I’m mostly excited because of the turnout, especially in light of the fact that the city’s youth are being split between two leagues [Chelsea Pop Warner and the brand new Chelsea Pride]. Both are being able to successfully launch a great season. We’re here to make sure the kids participate in a program. I don’t care what program they choose as long as they are off the streets and living a healthy lifestyle.”