SILER CITY — According to our calendars, it’s only June. But football is already the talk of the town.
Registration opened for Siler City’s newest youth football team — the 14U Siler City Jets — in early May and there are already close to two dozen families interested in signing up, said Ryan Johnson, the co-founder of the 14U Jets and head coach of the Jordan-Matthews High School football team.
“We’re in the process of getting people to buy in and sign up,” Johnson said. “Right now, we’re at about 20 people that we’re assisting with registration. We’re trying to blast as much information as possible.”
The 14U Jets team is Siler City’s freshest attempt at a middle school football program, something the town — and much of Chatham County — has been lacking for years with Chatham County Schools continuing to not offer football as one of its many middle-school-sanctioned sports.
The team will be coached by Chris Graves, a teacher and multi-sport coach at Chatham Middle School in Siler City.
“He coaches the basketball team, baseball team and pretty much everything over there,” Johnson said with a laugh. “All the kids know him, so it’s a no-brainer. … He’s a football guy and a community guy, so he’s going to head it up.”
With registration having been open for a little over a month, Johnson said he’s blown away by the number of applicants in such a short time, especially with the team capping sign-ups at 28 players. But he isn’t necessarily shocked and hopes that those numbers can be sustained for the team’s first few seasons.
“Registration is (typically) a little bit higher when you’re doing new things,” he said. “The front end of the first couple of years is a little bit higher … so I think if those numbers go ahead and finalize their commitment, and we add a few more, things are (looking up) for years to come.”
Naming similarities aside, the 14U Jets have no affiliation with the Siler City Jets teams operated by Siler City Parks and Recreation — with three age groups: 8U, 10U and 12U — but instead are under the umbrella of the East Chatham Chargers, a football organization in Pittsboro.
However, Johnson said that won’t be the case for long.
“After this year’s over, the East Chatham Chargers have agreed to take over (Siler City Parks and Rec’s football league), so we’ll all be under the same umbrella, same scheme and same coaches,” Johnson announced. “It’s a big deal. I think it’s really coming together. It’s a process that hasn’t happened over night, but we’ve done some things in the community.”
The Jets will play alongside the Chargers in the East Wake Football League, a league founded in 1968 that’s only recently adopted a 14U At-Large division, and home games will be played at Jordan-Matthews on Saturdays throughout the fall.
Much of Johnson’s work in the community focuses on giving football players in Siler City a seamless transition between age groups, from elementary to middle to high school.
As part of that effort, Johnson led a Feeder Coaches Clinic in the Jordan-Matthews cafeteria back on June 4, where he got most of the area’s youth and middle school football coaches in the same room to “bridge the gap with our feeder programs,” the event’s flyer said.
At the clinic, he and other J-M coaches went over presentations about all three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams — and discussed base plays and strategies, along with taking any questions from the attendees.
“The coaches that attended walked away with our resources and had a fluid understanding of our base terminology and everything,” Johnson said. “It was a great day because it really gave us a chance to sit down with our standard at Jordan-Matthews to make sure we’re on the same page across the board.”
Johnson’s work to grow the game within Siler City’s youth will continue on Monday, June 27, when Jordan-Matthews hosts its Future Jets Youth Football Camp at Phil E. Senter Stadium on J-M’s campus.
The camp, which runs from June 27-30 for rising 1st through 9th graders, will feature a collection of volunteers ranging from J-M alumni with NFL ties — including George Edwards, the current senior defensive assistant for the Dallas Cowboys — to college players from schools like Barton, Wake Forest and UNC, along with current players and coaches. He’s still working to confirm all of the special guest appearances, but he’s certain that attendees won’t be disappointed.
“I’m definitely looking forward to a fun time,” Johnson said of the camp. “They will walk away with skill-set improvement. We’re going to focus a lot on fundamentals and we’ll also have fun with some activities, some games, some challenges. We’ll teach those guys what we’re dealing with in terms of our base routes, base runs, defensive techniques, those types of things. We really want them to just come in and see our facilities and coaches and meet people who have gone on to be successful. They’ll get better over the course of the week.”
To register for Jordan-Matthews’ youth football camp, or any of the school’s other summer camps, visit https://bit.ly/3xc88Tz
To sign up for the 14U Siler City Jets, visit www.ecchargers.org to create an account.
Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.
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