Move to Tampa Bay Youth Football League
By Kyle LoJacono
LUTZ (Change to Pasco County for all other zone) — For nearly 30 years, the Lutz Chiefs youth football and cheerleading teams have played and cheered for the Pasco Police Athletic League.
“The first thing I want to emphasize is that the Chiefs leaving is not in any way a negative reaction to PPAL,” said Lisa Penzer, president of the Chiefs. “We just feel like PPAL is moving in a direction that is different than where we want to go as a youth athletic organization.”
Penzer has lived in Lutz for nine years and her son, Jarrett, played for the Chiefs for seven years.
Lutz will play in the Tampa Bay Youth Football League in 2010, which was made official on Jan. 1.
“The biggest issue is we are a Hillsborough team playing in a Pasco County league,” Penzer said. “The Hillsborough County Parks (Recreation and Conservation) Department made it known that it would like to see the Chiefs play in Hillsborough after the expansion of Oscar Cooler Park.”
PPAL executive director Tim Couet said, “We wish the Chiefs only the best, but Lisa told us they had to leave as part of moving into the new football complex. I told her I’d do the same thing if I was in her position.”
The park’s expansion is set for completion in late April at a cost of $3.7 million according to John Brill, HCPRC spokesman. The new park will have additional fields, including ones for soccer.
“To my knowledge no one told the Chiefs they had to join a Hillsborough league,” Brill said. “The individual teams can join leagues wherever they want as long as they follow laws for everyone. They don’t have to leave their old league just because it’s in Pasco County.”
While it is unclear if the Chiefs had pressure from HCPRC to switch leagues, it is certain the Lutz organization was unhappy with some of PPAL rules.
“For example, PPAL doesn’t let kids who are small for their age play down in a younger age class,” Penzer said. “PPAL also doesn’t have any flag football divisions anymore, which our new league does…The new league has flag football for kids 4, 5, and 6 years old.”
The Chiefs are the only Hillsborough based team in PPAL, which had 10 youth organizations before Lutz left. The remaining teams include: Land O’ Lakes Gators, Wesley Chapel Bulls, Zephyrhills Bulldogs, Dade City Pirates, Trinity Mustangs, New Port Richey Buccaneers, Crew Lake Cowboys, Hudson Cobras and West Hernando Cougars.
The loss of the Lutz team leaves PPAL with only nine members.
“We are in the processes of looking for another team if we can find one close to Pasco that is at the level of play we are used to,” Couet said. “If we can’t find another team we’ll just go on with nine and see if that works.”
The Chiefs are not the only team to join TBYFL this season. The league also added the South Pasco Steelers, Thonotosassa Giants and Brandon Ravens.
“We added almost 1,000 kids through the cheerleading and football teams joining us this year,” said Scott Levinson, TBYFL president. “We say that if we have kids playing football or cheering, then they can’t be doing something they shouldn’t be.”
Lutz will keep its traditional five football and cheerleading age groups, with the youngest division as a flag football division.
Allowing kids to “play down” an age-class and offering flag football is part of the larger focus of the TBYFL.
“We think kids have too much pressure today, so we want things to be fun here,” Levinson said. “We try to teach the kids football in a safe way, not get them ready for high school football. If they choose to play in high school that’s great, but we just want to teach them the basics and let them have fun.”
The Chiefs considered two other youth football and cheerleading leagues before joining TBYFL — the national Pop Warner league and the since disbanded West Coast league.
“It was a very hard decision to leave PPAL because when you think of the Lutz Chiefs you think of the league,” Penzer said. “It’s going to be very strange playing other teams in new places, but we did a lot of research and were very careful in selecting this new league. It was the best choice for the kids.”
The new league will be different for the players, but they will be playing against teams from such close locations as Citrus Park and Carrollwood.
“I wish PPAL only good things in the future and we have no negative feelings toward the league,” Penzer said. “We just had to make a tough choice for our kids.”
For more information on TBYFL or to sign up for the 2010 season, visit www.tbyfl.com. To learn about PPAL and its upcoming registration dates, visit www.pascopal.org.