The 2013 youth football season is a historic high point in the number of local programs. In addition to the new Tracy Rampage, four teams in Tracy and one in Mountain House are back for another season.
The result is more chances than ever for youngsters ages 5 to 14 to find their places on a local team.
The Tracy Junior Bulldogs are entering their 40th season. The program’s name change in 2011 after 37 years as the Tracy Raiders reflects the Junior Bulldogs status as the feeder program for Tracy High’s football team.
President Jonathan Blackwell expects that even without cuts, the Junior Bulldogs will draw skilled players.
"The fortunate thing for us is the kids who really care about playing in high school come play here, because we’ve adopted (Tracy High’s) system," Blackwell said.
The Bulldogs’ junior varsity team is the defending Delta Youth Football League champion, fueled by a core group of players on a three-season, 39-game winning streak that began when they won the league title as a novice team.
The Bulldogs open their season on the road against the Lathrop Spartans. Their first home game will be Sept. 14, with their opponent and location yet to be confirmed.
The Tracy Cougars begin their 11th year with 145 players and all their rosters except the varsity squad nearly full.
Cougars president John Harvey said that some players have left for newer teams, but the Cougars still attract top talent.
"The organizations that have been around for a while — the Buccs, the Bulldogs, the Cougars — all three have had a good following, so we have good numbers across the board," Harvey said.
As he was in 2012, Harvey is optimistic about the younger levels. The Cougars novice team claimed a Delta Youth Football League championship in 2012, and Harvey said most of the players are back on the novice team. Those who move up will strengthen the junior varsity team.
The Cougars open their season on the road against the Northwest Stockton Trojans on Aug. 31 and have their first home game Sept. 14 at Tracy High against the Manteca Chargers.
The Tracy Buccaneers start their 10th season with full rosters in the three younger age groups and a dozen openings at the varsity level, according to Buccaneers vice president James Brakkee.
The Buccaneers’ league, the Delta Youth Sports Association-Nor Cal, does not allow its teams to make cuts, so once a roster is full, the team stops signing up players.
"We’re done (for the lower levels), but I have waiting lists for all three levels," Brakkee said.
Leaders of the Buccs are hoping for another successful year after the Starts, Rookies and Varsity teams all went to the 2012 DYSA Nor-Cal Super Bowl and finished as league runners-up.
The Buccaneers open their season Aug. 24 on the road against the Vacaville Christian Falcons. Their first home game is scheduled Sept. 7 against the Pittsburg Pirates at Tracy High.
Panther Youth Football
The fifth season for Panther Youth Football is a new beginning.
Team founder Dwayne Grady said that in spite of losing most of his coaches and players to other teams, he plans to be competitive.
"I did learn from experience: Keep it smaller and keep it a tighter group," Grady said. "My focus has always been to teach the kids the fundamentals of football. With smaller groups, we can make sure we can do that."
On the first day of workouts Monday, July 22, he had 54 players, and he expects that a roster of 16 players will be sufficient at each level.
"I just hate seeing kids standing around," he added. "They’ll be tired, but that’s what football is about."
The Panthers play in the Trans Valley Youth Football League and begin their season at West High on Aug. 18 against the Tri-City Bulldogs of Le Grand.
Mountain House Hurricanes
The Mountain House Hurricanes have doubled in size in their second year.
Hurricanes corporation chief Mo Kahoonei said the returning players have a year of valuable experience after a season when everyone had to play hard on both sides of the ball.
"We were playing iron man last year," Kahoonei said.
This year, the Hurricanes have about 100 players so far for solid rosters at all four levels.
The 2012 novice team got as far as the Trans Valley Youth Football League semifinals, with a last-minute defeat in their final game. Kahoonei said the junior varsity struggled all year, but the players are after redemption as a new varsity squad.
"It didn’t sit well with them," Kahoonei said. "They’ve been working hard in the off season. They’re ready for this year."
The Hurricanes practice and play at Questa School. Their first game is at home Aug. 17 against the House Warriors of Modesto.
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.