Pre-game check in. Buckland Park, 9/18/16
In New Team in Town: Roc City Steelers debut at Buckland Park, we began coverage of the new Pop Warner team in Brighton.
As reported, opening day was a huge success, drawing over 250 spectators. That Sunday was just game 1 of a larger vision. As Coach Deondre Gray explained, last year the Roc City Steelers played in the city at Addams Street. This season the team joined the Greater Rochester Pop Warner League, moving to Brighton for practices at Brighton Town Park and games at Buckland Park.
Drawing players and families from the city and throughout Brighton, Deondre describes the big picture as an “urban suburban outreach based on the love of football” where city and suburban boys and families bond together.
As the team sets down its roots, the Roc City Steelers sights go beyond just renting football fields in Brighton. As new families join the football community and news fans attend the games, the Steelers aim to be more than just a Pope Warner club. They want to be Brighton’s Team.
Sunday’s game didn’t quite have the same fanfare as opening day. The Mighty Mites were playing in Ogden so it was just the Jr. Pee-Wees against the Westside Seahawks from Buffalo.
Many of the same faces were there. The same father in the orange cap who I saw at every summer practice in Buckland Park. And the ladies at the concession stand were as welcoming as ever. I also met three Seahawks fans who made the trip from Buffalo. The Seahawks travel to Niagara Falls, Rochester and Syracuse (a three hour drive, but no complaints).
I spoke for awhile with James, an assistant coach. Like Deondre, James sees this first season as just the beginning of a tradition: Sunday Pop Warner football at Buckland Park. James thinks if the league provides good football, fans will come, watching the boys grow from Might Mites to Pee-Wees and then maybe into Brighton Barons in high school.
Soon enough, people from the nearby neighborhoods and Sunday shoppers at Loehman’s Plaza and soccer, tennis and basketball players and families and kids on the playground will drop by to check out the Steeelers: Brighton’s Team. James says he’ll know the team has arrived when people honk their horns approvingly when driving past on Westfall Rd.
As an umpire who has worked youth baseball at the Buckland diamonds, I always watch the referees.
During the game, the refs — like the coaches — do more than blow whistles. For young players, mastering basic football formations takes time and repetition. Ever patient, the refs guided boys into their proper positions.
The only slight controversy was over the sideline yard marking. Each team supplied yard markers. One referee lectured the boys on the Seahawk side to stay focused and not be cheerleading for their team. If the boys couldn’t stay neutral in the yard spotting, he warned they would lose their coveted yard marking jobs.
Football was not the only game in town at Buckland. The Rochester Men’s Adult Baseball League (who you’ve read about) was playing its championship game on the on the Major League field: Padres vs. Giants. The plate umpire was Mike Wilkins and the bases Jim Urbin. According to his daughter-in-law, ZZ Popz (his real name I was told) hasn’t shaved his beard since the 70s. She added that today ZZ was sporting his “playoff beard.” In the off-season Popz’ beard grows even wilder.
ON LOCAL FOOTBALL