DAVIE — Riley Jumper knows what it’s like to see a high school football team win a state championship. Two years ago in Orlando’s Citrus Bowl, he cheered for his cousin Andre Jumper and American Heritage as they won a state title.
“It was awesome,” said Riley, who, as a fifth-grader, is a few years away from the start of his high school career.
Riley is one of eight Seminoles in the Davie Broncos youth football program, which helps plant the seeds of future high school players. But before Riley and the rest of the Broncos graduate to perhaps play under Friday night lights someday, they’re learning all aspects of the game, from proper tackling and blocking to mastering playbooks to even learning how to get fired up before games.
For 5- to 7-year-olds on the Mighty Mites team, such as cousins Antonio Tosca, Logan Wilcox and Quinton Wilson, games are played on Thursday nights with coaches on the playing field to provide assistance.
For older kids, such as Riley, Gregory “Xavier” Thomas, Thomas Tigertail, Sam Josh and Jay Stewart, prime time arrives on Saturday mornings.
Davie’s home games at Bamford Sports Complex feature a flair that adheres to the Western motif of the town and the team’s NFL namesake in Denver. Two horses and their riders in cowboy hats provide a colorful, blazing backdrop as they sprint onto the field before kickoffs carrying giant U.S. and Broncos flags.
The Broncos belong to the American Youth Football League, whose teams include Coconut Creek, Cooper City, Coral Springs, Delray, Fort Lauderdale, Miramar, Plantation, Pembroke Pines, Sunrise, Tamarac, Weston and West Pines. Practices began in the summer. Following an 11-week regular season, the playoffs were slated to start Oct. 31 and run through November.
Davie enjoyed a perfect homestand Oct. 3 when all six of its teams from 8U through 13U won their games against the Delray Rocks.
Davie’s 9U team, which includes Gregory Thomas, Riley Jumper and Thomas Tigertail, used a late touchdown to improve its record to 3-4 with an 18-12 win against Delray.
“We’ve lost four games, but we’re catching up,” Riley said.
Riley saw action on special teams, including a kickoff where he and Gregory lined up next to each other. Riley also handled duties on the offensive line late in the game. He said next school year he might attend American Heritage, where his cousins Blevyns and Ahnie Jumper are multi-sport athletes.
“All my grandkids are athletes,” Riley’s grandfather Moses Jumper Jr. said.
The American Heritage-Seminole football pipeline also includes Gregory’s father, Greg, who played for the Patriots in the early 2000s and now serves as an assistant coach for his son’s team.
Gregory, a fourth-grader in his third year of football, started as an outside linebacker on defense against Delray, but in the first half he relieved an injured offensive player and immediately provided a block on a run to his side that sprung a teammate for a long touchdown run.
With the score knotted at 12-12 in the fourth quarter, Gregory and the Broncos defense held Delray to three-and-out, which paved the way for the go-ahead score.
Thomas, the third member of the team’s Seminole trio, missed the game because of illness, coaches said.
In the 8U game, third-graders Sam Josh and Jay Stewart had active days on both sides of the ball to help the Broncos post an 8-0 win.
Sam recovered a fumble while playing cornerback on defense. On offense, he carried the ball a couple times on reverses from the wide receiver spot.
When asked what he likes most about playing football, Sam echoed the sentiments expressed by other Seminoles who said they enjoy the physical part of the game.
“To be able to tackle somebody,” Sam answered.
Jay, a guard and linebacker, registered a tackle for a loss in the third quarter when he smothered a Delray player in the backfield, which helped keep the visitors off the scoreboard.
“[Sam and Josh] get to play both ways,” 8U assistant coach Jarrod Hedrick said. “They are integral parts of both sides of the ball, offense and defense. They’re both outstanding. Jay got to help us out a lot on offense today playing right guard. Sam helped us out at receiver. He did an excellent job blocking and ran a couple of reverses.”
Davie upped its record to 2-5.
“We’re gaining by leaps and bounds, getting better every week,” Hedrick said.
Mighty Mites team
Earlier in the week, Davie’s Mighty Mites – the program’s youngest players – visited Tequesta Trace Park to face the host Weston Warriors. Only half the field is used for games.
Most of the players – ages 5 to 7 – are rookies.
“Probably 75 percent of our kids are first-year players,” Mighty Mites head coach Doug Skelton said. “This is the year to be able to tell whether they want to come back next year or not. As coaches, we want to make sure they like it and come back.”
The three Seminoles – Antonio Tosca, Logan Wilcox and Quinton Wilson – played several series on defense. Logan and Quinton played outside linebacker. Antonio, one of the taller players on the field, was in the mix on the defensive line and also saw plenty of playing time on a strong offensive line that opened huge holes for four long touchdown runs in the first half.
“All three of them start. They’re really good players,” Skelton said.
With many of the youngsters new to the game, some rituals – such as exuding intense emotion just before kickoff – need to be explained. Coaches helped the kids get in rhythm with their thigh pad slaps and vocal chords.
“How do you feel?” a coach barked to the players huddled together.
The young lungs roared back, “Fired up.”
The Seminoles shifted the emotion from the sideline to the playing field. In the second half, Logan rushed the quarterback and notched what would have been a sack if not for the official’s whistle that blew the play dead.
A Davie coach yelled from the sideline, “Hey, Logan. I want to see the same thing again.”
Indeed, on the next play Logan reached his target and knocked the quarterback to the ground just as he threw the ball to a receiver.
“That’s our goal,” Skelton said. “Get better every day.”