LIVERMORE FALLS — The Area Youth Sports [AYS] football program has issued a challenge to its teams, is hoping for community support at the Sept. 9 opening games.

AYS Football Commissioner Dylan Ryder and AYS Vice President Nixon Ortiz issued the challenge on the football program’s Facebook page Aug. 28. “If two out of the five teams playing at the season opener on September 9 win their game, we will race each other the 100 yards on the field, IN UNIFORM. Police vs. Fire,” Ryder wrote. “I know all five teams will be winning their games. So the real question is, who will win the foot race?”

On Aug. 29, the Livermore Falls Advertiser stopped by Griffin Field and spoke briefly with Mike Nichols, coach for the middle school team made up of seventh and eighth grade students from Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls. He said his brother, Jake Nichols has been helping him for five years and Donovan Smith two years. An email requesting more information was not returned.

Area Youth Sports sponsors football teams for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. On Tuesday night, Aug. 29, seventh and eighth grade students practice a drill at Griffin Field in Livermore Falls. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

At the other end of the field, the peewee team comprised of third and fourth grade students from the area were being coached by Eric Gemelli. He has been coaching AYS football for three years, AYS programs for 11, he said during a phone interview Thursday morning.

Eric Gemelli, Area Youth Sports football coach works with the peewee team of third and fourth graders Tuesday night, Aug. 29, at Griffin Field in Livermore Falls. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Gemelli has many reasons for coaching. “The biggest is I like connecting with kids, showing kids if they work hard good things will come to them,” he said. “I like seeing the smiles on their faces.”

Youth benefit from playing by learning how to work as a group, work together to complete a goal, Gemelli said. “We work on respect, every boy has a certain job. It helps kids take their minds off everything else in the world. It’s about raising good young men [and women], learning to help out in the community, become leaders, that they are not above everybody else. It teaches kids how to grow as individuals.”


Earlier in August, AYS football held a bottle drive and raised almost $2,000 to purchase new equipment, the Facebook page stated. Within the next month young athletes will hopefully be using a single-man youth slide, a two-man youth chute and a couple blocking bags, which will definitely help athletes progress in the game of football, it noted.

Coaches are making sure the program as a whole have better equipment to help players learn better stances in games, Gemelli said. “We are still lacking on some funds, working our way to get group sponsors to come in,” he said.

The pee wee team has 23 members this year, up from 16 last year, Gemelli noted. The team won the championship last year, is looking at another good run this year, he stated.

“Numbers are up for AYS, we are starting to make some really good moves, making sure the youth program has somebody looking out for the young people’s best interests,” Gemelli said.

Gemelli likes the challenge put forth by Ryder and Nixon. “I have no doubt those guys will be racing each other,” he said. “I see at least three of the five teams winning.”

Friday afternoon Ryder said this is his first year as commissioner of the football program. The number of youth participating are very slowly increasing, he noted.


There are five to 10 more in the flag football program, five to 10 more in pee wee, youth and middle school are about the same, he stated.

There are two flag teams [for youth kindergarten to grade two], pee wee is grade three and four, youth is grade five and six while middle school is seventh and eighth grade.

With more players more equipment is needed, Ryder said. Late last week Pallet One of Livermore Falls covered the cost of new jerseys for younger players [about $2,000] because the ones on hand for pee wee and  youth players were extremely tight, Ryder noted. Luckily, jerseys for the older players fit, he stated.

New helmets, at a cost of about $4,000 are still needed as they can’t be used again, he stated.

“One of the most stressful things for me is getting jerseys, equipment on time,” Ryder shared. Some jerseys were ordered two weeks before a scrimmage on Aug. 26, they arrived the night before, he said. More have been ordered, there is less than two weeks until opening games on Sept. 9, he noted.

“The football program has a great group of coaches, all are dedicated and experienced,” Ryder said. “We are all volunteers, nobody gets paid. It is a passion for us. For the community it is a great thing to watch the kids play their hearts out. It is great the numbers are increasing, kids are getting off the couch.”


At a recent practice, Ortiz and Ryder were watching the kids and joking around. “We came up with the idea to challenge the kids on opening day, Sept. 9, and seeing who is faster. I strongly believe they will come through, that we will be running.

“It gives the kids more motivation, an opportunity for them to laugh if one of us falls on our face,” he noted.

Ryder grew up in Jay, wants to bring football back to what it was 20 years ago, wants the bleachers full again for games under the lights.

The schedule was changed so the pee wee team which won the championship last year will be playing under the lights at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, Ryder said. The youth team plays at 5 p.m., middle school at 3 p.m. while the two flag football teams play at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., he noted.

“It’s a full day of football, well worth it for the kids,” Ryder said.

He hopes the community will turn out in support of its young athletes.

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