LEWISTOWN - It's that time of year again.
With the smell of freshly cut grass in the air and kids struggling to get their shoulder pads on, the Juniata Valley Football League once again takes to the field to embark on another season under the direction of president Steve Searer.
From everything to flag football for the youngsters and cheerleading, all the way up to the midget division, the league is designed for the introduction of the sport, and the teaching of the basics: fundamentals, team discipline and sportsmanship.
The JVFL, the senior youth football program in the region and long the only choice for local youngsters, has found itself in competition with another area program: the Central Keystone Football League. Searer said the JVFL, which reaches out to Mifflin, Juniata, Snyder and Huntingdon counties, is still around and going strong.
"The key for us is that we take kids from the entire county," Searer said. "There's been some confusion with that, but if you live in Mifflin County we have a team for you."
The JVFL is divided into three age groups. Flag football and cheerleading is for kids ages 5-6. The pee-wee division, which also offers football and cheerleading, is for ages 7-9 and the midget division is for the ages of 10-12.
The difference between the two leagues is that the JVFL doesn't have a strict "everyone plays" policy. The JVFL holds games labeled as A and B games, with the A games reserved for more developed players.
Another difference between the two organizations is territorial - the JVFL requires players to sign up on a certain team based on where they live.
In the Central Keystone, there is an "everyone plays" rule. But Searer and the JVFL board don't necessarily feel that's the best way to go. So the league went to a system - which started last year - offering the two levels of games.
The B games give a chance for every player to see time on the field. Some coaches in the league look at the B games as another practice during the week - but it's not just that, Searer explained. Many times in midget football you will see a matchup between two players that are certainly not equal in size. For that reason, the JVFL has opted for the B games to eliminate that situation for the safety of the kids.
"We don't want to put a 40 pound kid against a 100 pound kid," Searer said. "If you're forced to put a kid in there, they are scared to death."
And that's exactly how a kid can be intimidated and be more susceptible to injuries.
With the support of coaches, it sounds like the new system will be around for a long time. The coaches voted on it again this year and they've accepted it.
"They seem to accept it pretty well," Searer said. "We voted on it and decided to keep it. They seem to like that idea."
And the kids like the idea also.
Searer wanted to stress one thing: If a kid lives in Mifflin County, the JVFL is open to them - no matter where they live.
"For some reason people have thought (certain areas in the county) cannot play for the league," he said. "That's not true. The key for us is that in Mifflin County everyone can play."