Local youth play hits pay dirt

Coral Springs’ Addison Hoffman enjoys everything about playing for the Parkland Rangers in the Treasure Coast Pop Warner Football League.

“I like that you get to hit people, make big plays and score touchdowns,” said Hoffman, 9, a versatile player who plays fullback, guard and tight end for the Rangers’ Mitey Mite Division squad.

With the addition of a Deerfield Beach program this year, the Pop Warner circuit has expanded its north Broward County presence to go along with a solid group of members in south Palm Beach County. Pop Warner, which extends to the Stuart/Fort Pierce area, also has regional programs in Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach and Lake Worth.

Parkland is a long-standing member, celebrating its fifth anniversary this season.

Pop Warner is competing against both the American Youth Football League and the South Florida Youth Football League.

Hoffman, a fourth-grade student at Coral Springs Christian School, hauled in a 40-yard pass in a recent game against the Riviera Beach Chargers. Parkland rallied from an 8-point halftime deficit to pull out a 22-14 victory.

“I thought I was probably going to catch the ball,” Hoffman said. “(The pass) was wobbly, but I just concentrated on catching it.”

Alex Brotten came through with two touchdowns, while Jacob Kadel scored once in the victory.

Two other team members — Tucker Jean, who splits time at offensive and defensive lineman, and Christopher Elkan, a cornerback — also are making a big impact. Both live in Parkland.

“The effort that we put in at the practices helps us in the games,” said Jean, 8, a third-grader at Park Trails Elementary School. “(Playing football) is cool. I like the challenge.”

Jean has been playing football since age 4.

“It is fun, especially when you are winning,” Jean said. “It is important to play hard and give your best.”

Elkan, 9, who is in the third grade at Riverglades Elementary School, has no trouble motivating himself during games.

“It’s important to get a big hit on a tackle. Your teammates get more excited, (and) it makes you more excited,” Elkan said. “I want to be (among the) best players on the team. That would mean that I worked really hard in practice and it paid off.”

Ed Hoffman, who is Addison’s dad and a member of the Parkland Rangers’ board of directors, said the program has enjoyed considerable success under the Pop Warner banner.

“Last year, every one of our competitive teams (four) from Junior Pee Wees through Junior Midgets made it to the playoffs,” Hoffman said. “That’s been nice. We have great families out here.”

Hoffman said there aren’t significant travel issues, although some road trips take them to Martin County. He said they enjoy making a weekend out of the trips.

Parkland Rangers Football Commissioner Chuck Harper said the program includes six teams and about 200 players and cheerleaders. Two years ago, the Pee Wee Division (120-pound) team reached the championship game.

Although the Rangers dropped a hard-fought decision, their incredible ride that season propelled them and the program into the league spotlight.

“It put us on the map,” Harper said. “It was a very proud moment.”

Bobby Cooper, who coaches the Tiny Mite team in the Deerfield Beach Raiders’ organization, said his players get fired up for Pop Warner competition.

Cooper, who took over the team just eight days before the season opener, said he has a relatively inexperienced squad, but they are showing constant improvement.

“They are right about where they should be, considering how young and inexperienced they are,” said Cooper, who has been coaching youth football for nearly a decade.

The Tiny Mite Division is composed of players ages 5-7 and weighing between 35 and 75 pounds. The majority of the players on the Raiders’ team are age 5.

“The hardest part about working with 13 5-year-olds is to have patience. Only two of those 5-year-olds have ever played football before,” Cooper said. “If you don’t have patience, you don’t need to be out here.”

Gary Curreri can be reached at SportsCom5@aol.com.

Article source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/parkland/fl-cnsp-centerbr-0929-20130930,0,5127854.story?track=rss

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