The newest youth football program in Tracy begins with the philosophy that no player should ever spend too much time on the sidelines.
Founders of the Tracy Rampage expect that the sixth local youth football team is starting up at a time when Tracy and Mountain House have enough players to fill all of the rosters at each age level.
"We’ll only carry 30 kids (on each of the four age levels)," said Chris Lavagetto, one of three coaches who formed the team following the 2012 season. "We want to give the kids playing for us better quality teaching and give them a chance to play on both sides of the ball."
He and co-founders Ron McFarland and Shannon Albracht all coached for Panther Youth Football, leaving that program after the 2011 season to coach for the Ripon Knights.
Albracht said that by the end of the 2012 season, they were ready to put into play their ideas of what youth football should be.
"We had seen so many other programs cutting kids. That was the biggest issue," said Albracht, who also teaches martial arts through his local studio, Traditions Martial Arts.
"Youth football is extremely popular, and it’s one of those things where we thought there was a need for it. We just jumped on the idea and really pushed."
Right away, the Rampage — which started its second week of conditioning this week at Poet Christian School — was able to fill its rosters at three levels.
The starts team is for players age 5 to 8, rookies for ages 8 to 10 and junior varsity for ages 10 to 13. Some spots are left on the varsity team for players 12 to 14 years old.
Leaders of other youth football programs said a new program just means their teams won’t have too many kids, which would have forced them to make cuts to fit their maximum-size rosters, typically 45 players.
The one local program that lost a significant number of coaches and players to the Rampage is Panther Youth Football. Panther team founder Dwayne Grady said his first day of workouts Monday, July 22, at Tracy Learning Center reminded him of starting with 11 kids on the first day of practice in 2009.
Grady said his program grew to more than 30 kids on each roster, but with the exception of a few coaches and players, he’s now starting from scratch.
He explained that the shift of coaches and players to the Rampage followed a 2012 season during which he had minimal involvement with the Panthers, as his job took him to Southern California.
"It’s unfortunate," Grady said. "I spent a lot of time and money to get it started and basically showed them how to do it, and they took off and took everybody with them."
Albracht said he, Lavagetto and McFarland left the Panthers on good terms at the end of the 2011 season and coached a year in Ripon before they decided to start the Rampage at the end of the 2012 season. He said the coaches they knew from the Panthers wanted to be part of the new team.
"Because those (Panthers) coaches wanted to join us, their players wanted to follow along," Albracht said.
As of this week, they had nearly reached their goal of 120 players. Albracht said about a third of the players came from other teams — including the Junior Bulldogs, Cougars and Buccaneers — and the rest were new players.
McFarland said it was clear that the Tracy area could support one more team.
"We’re just a group of guys that wanted to start a team and do things a little bit differently from the team that we left," he said. "It wouldn’t be so packed on the teams, and kids would have a better chance to play.
"When we decided 100 percent to do this, we made it a point to get our name out there a lot through Facebook, social media and word of mouth. It really helped with registration and our numbers."
The Rampage will play in the Delta Youth Sports Association-Nor Cal, the same league as the Tracy Buccaneers.
The team kicks off its season with a day of scrimmages Aug. 17 at Tracy Ball Park. The first game is on the road against the Stockton Junior Kings, and the Rampage’s first home game is Aug. 31 at West High against the Pittsburg Pirates.
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.