How It All Began…
The Allegheny Valley Youth Football Association was started in 1992 by a couple of Springdale Dynamo Football fans. They wanted to provide the Springdale Varsity Football Program with a steady flow of experienced players who knew the nuisances of football. After exploring the community’s interest and talking with other local youth football organizations, a committee was formed. Through hard work, they raised enough funds to incorporate a non-profit volunteer organization known as the Allegheny Valley Youth Football Association. This group formed a board of officers and had a registration of interested participants. The original board was Barry Brown, Dave Harrison, Ed Hamorsky, Wayne Mundekis, Don Petrelli, Bob Gold, Pat Ambrose and Bob Barch. The new AVYFA board wrote the first By-Laws and Rules of Operation. Through careful negotiations and acquisitions the board purchased equipment from the Freeport Youth Football organization. It then received a needed financial boost, insuring future viability, through the generosity of Springdale Borough. With all that in place, the AVYFA began operations in the established Tri-County Football League in July of 1993. Since its inception, the AVYFA has provided an organized football program for boys and girls in the local community.
In the Beginning…
While in the Tri-County League, the AVYFA was required to field teams in four age/weight limit divisions. These original teams were called the “Alley Cats” (8 and under), the “Bob Cats” (9&10 yrs), the “Wild Cats” (11&12 yrs) and the “Thunder Cats” (13 and 14 year olds). The “Thunder Cat” name was the inspiration of the Paw/Lightning Bolt logo that is still used on the helmets today.
How’d We Do, Coach?
While the early years of our participation were hard and wins were scarce, the AVYFA board and coaching staff had a 5-year plan to make the playoffs with at least one of the four teams. That goal was realized early, when in 1994 the surprising Thunder Cats stormed into the Tri-County playoffs. This small group of close knit players, under the direction of Head Coach Bob Gold, shocked the established teams of the Tri-County by using a multi-look high power offense and a stingy quick defense to win game after game against the favored perennial contenders. Then in 1995 the equally surprising Bob Cat team made the playoffs and almost pulled off an upset in the first round against Penn Hills, a Quad A district team.
"Let's GO TEAM"
In 1994 the board added cheerleading to the organizations objectives. This proved to be a bountiful decision as the number of girls wanting to participate far exceeded the expectations of the board. Many times the cheerleading squads were filled to the maximum capacity. The youth football cheerleaders, under the tutelage of Karen Sabodish, Director of Cheerleading, were always innovative and entertaining. The Springdale Dynamo Cheerleaders soon saw the benefits of the organization. These talented young girls helped to fill out the JV and Junior High squads and became Captains of the Competition Squad for the High School.
In 1996, the AVYFA board began exploring the possibility of moving to the United Youth Football League. This move was eventually made in 1997, to put the organization in a league that had teams that were proportional in size and was considered to be more in line with the organizational objectives established by the board. The AVYFA, while participating in the Tri-County League, was competing against teams from Quad A and AAA school districts. The league was letting more of the large school district teams in and this was not conducive to the continued success of the AVYFA. The United Youth Football League (UYFL) has proven to be an excellent fit for the organization, as it is comprised of mostly AA and Single A district teams. The AVYFA had to re-structure its teams to 3 age/weight limits divisions and renamed the teams as the Cougars (9 and under), Panthers (10 and 11 year olds) and Jaguars (12 and 13 year olds). The UYFL is a competitive league of good organizations and some great rivalries have developed. The 1998 season saw the AVYFA make big strides in the league; the organization was accepted as a permanent member and was chosen as the site for the 1999 United Youth Football League “Super Bowl” championship games.
The success of the AVYFA has been due to the support of the many sponsors, contributors and participants over the years. The organization has consistently upgraded the equipment used by the participants whether cheerleader or football player. The 1999 season brought new orange jerseys for the away games matching new cheerleader uniforms from 1998. The AVYFA bought a state of the art Five-Man Sled and participated in the construction of the new concession stand at Veteran’s Field.
The crowning achievement of the AVYFA has been the migration of experienced football players to the Springdale Dynamo Varsity Football Team. In 1998, the Varsity Roster of 27 players for the Dynamos had 16 former AVYFA players listed. The 1999, the Dynamo Varsity Roster had 23 of the 40 former AVYFA players. To add to this, the 1999 Dynamo Varsity Football Captains are all former AVYFA “Thunder Cats”.
The 2000 Season brought great expectations! The Jaguar team was the first group of players that had started their first year of eligibility (6 or 7 years old) and played to their “senior” year as a team. It was a very cohesive unit that knew each other inside and out. Throughout their football careers, they had shown many sparks of greatness starting as the Alley Cats in the mid-nineties winning their instructional team division. Now, under the same Head Coach, Dave Harrison, and many of the same coaches - they stood poised to make a run at the United Youth Football Title. The Jaguars played as expected and in an exciting season finale, beat Seneca Valley on the road to win a berth in the Super Bowl for the first time as Division Champs. While the Super Bowl results were not favorable, the Jags gave perennial contender Hampton all they could handle. Season 2000 also saw the emergence of a powerful Panther team; though they were young, they pounded their way through the season and also stood at the doorstep of a playoff berth. Even though they fell a few points short in the exciting season finale, this team had an outstanding season full of stunning upsets and big hits. The 2000 Cougars had the fever as well. They showed great potential and perseverance with hard play that has been an AVYFA team trademark for 10 years.
The 2001 Season brought hard times to the AVYFA. Our success in 2000 stirred renewed interest in football at the Junior High and JV levels. The Jaguar team had “graduated” and many promising AVYFA “underclassmen” left early to follow them into the High School’s programs. The 2001 Jaguar team was only able to roster 14 players. Due to injuries and other circumstances, many games were played with only 11 players. This hard-nosed group played as though they were never out of a game and didn’t quit until the final whistle of the last game. The same could be said of the Panthers, an influx of new players with no experience helped make the roster size more respectable, but the learning curve was a long road to travel. This team showed some marvelous flashes of offense and a stingy blitzing defense along the bumpy season. In an exciting season finale, the Panthers almost managed to pull off a huge upset, which left all in attendance standing, cheering and breathless. The Cougars were the most improved team of the season, as they showed what instructional football is all about. These eager minds and bodies became a fine tuned machine that dazzled and befuddled many more experienced teams with twice their numbers. Although 2001 was tough on the AVYFA, the Junior High and JV teams reaped the benefit of the AVYFA experience. These teams had amazing seasons, stunning rivals by using speed, strength and football savvy to successful winning seasons. Throughout the valley the Dynamo fans could hear the “MACHINE” starting to churn toward the next step… the WPIAL playoffs.
The 2002 season was again difficult due to low numbers on the big team. As the season progressed we found we were not the only organization to suffer the junior high numbers game. Success has had a price to pay, and the Jaguar team played shorthanded all year- some games with only 12, 11 or even 10 players. This tight knit group proved to be extremely tough, never saying “quit”, never taking a day off to rest and never looking back at game results- only forward to the next game. It was the cliché season: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog!” The Panthers on the other hand had the numbers and were out to use them. This team showed their potential early and often as they put a serious hurt on the established playoff contenders. The Panthers were only slowed down by their own hard hitting reputation and a few key injuries. This team would be the 2003 Jaguars; can you say Super Bowl Title? The 2002 Cougars also came into sync with a great performance all season long. This group finally jelled and put together the kind of season the fans had been waiting for. This group began looking a lot like another group (2000 Jaguars) who played and stayed until the end. This group looks to have all the potential to be another Champion in the AVYFA legacy.
The 2002-year was tough on parents, coaches and players, but during the struggle the Cheerleaders never gave up. They stood on the sidelines in the rain, sleet, snow and ankle deep mud cheering “THE TEAM” through good times and bad. These spirited, excited and athletic girls are often overlooked but they are an integral part of the AVYFA experience, team and family. Next time you are at the field, take some time to raise your voice and cheer along with OUR GIRLS. Let them know that you hear and appreciate their hard work and diligence as much as you do the players. Cheerleaders are a large part of the Saturday Football Experience. Way to go Cougar, Panther and Jaguar Cheerleaders! Never stop raising your voices in support of your players!!
Looking back at 2002, the successes were not all on the youth football field. We, as an organization, had a lot to be proud of: great children, volunteers, and good times make the AVYFA experience a family experience. We are also proud to be part of another family - the Dynamo's Family. And our extended family had a BANNER year; the Dynamos ended a 29-year playoff drought. AVYFA players were a huge part of that. Of the 22 starting players, all but a handful were former AVYFA participants. Of the traveling squad, a staggering 95% plus were former AVYFA players. This was the goal of the original members of the Allegheny Valley Youth Football Organization; to see the dedication of all involved over 10 years finally be realized at the Dynamo level. This was indeed the first step toward a lofty goal. Great thanks to all the members past and present of the organization - players, cheerleaders, parents, coaches and board members.
The 2003 season had a new look, as well as new age and weight limits to help teams fill out their rosters. The organization also started giving back to the community’s children in the form of two Book Assistance Grants. One for each qualified former player and cheerleader who exemplify the AVYFA dedication to hard work in school, community and life. And as expected our season was a spectacular experience for all those involved. The 2003 Jaguars, led by Head Coach Wayne Mundekis, lit up the UYFL traditional powerhouse teams and stormed through the regular season with a second place finish and a berth in the Super Bowl. The “never say quit”, Panthers played shorthanded all year, due to the age changes, but in true form, followed the team motto: “No Rest- No Problem”. They played hard all season long leaving their blood, sweat and tears on the field. The 2003 Cougars were quite frankly robbed of their Super Bowl appearance by the UYFL tiebreaker rules. This explosive scoring machine seemed to score at will, setting organizational records and was feared by all their opponents as the team who could have easily taken it all. The 2003 season was a great success for the AVYFA and for the all the local football fans. It was the year of the Dynamo and our own 2000 Jaguars, Panthers and their teammates proved what we have known a long time… “These guys were good, REAL GOOD!” The Dynamos charged into the playoffs and took the WPIAL Class A Championship at Heinz Field. This accomplishment brought to life the dream of the original board and the predictions of the 2000 Jaguar coaches, experienced players at the high school level and a Championship, the first since 1973.
The 2004 AVYFA rosters reaped the benefits of the success in the local football season, both at the youth and at the High School level as the teams swelled to 24 or more players on each team. With all the new “CATS” on the practice field the board faced a welcome problem, having to purchase new equipment to outfit the overwhelming response. The organization updated the uniforms to a modern look and showed the league the future of the Dynamos in game after game of hard-hitting action. The 2004 Jaguars laid down the challenge of an aggressive bunch that took no excuses and played hard throughout the season. The Panthers, with improved numbers, had an awesome season. This group lost in two overtime games and a one-point loss, that narrowly keep them from an 8 win season. The Cougars were young, many new players, but they learned the ropes and will show the UYFL that they are ready for 2005. To continue the AVYFL player legacy, the ’04 Dynamos again roared into the WPIAL playoffs, only to just come up short of Heinz Field.
Predictions came true early in the 2005 Season, another Super Bowl appearance for the AVYFA. Our organization was chosen as the host of the UYFL Super Bowl and it was our intention to not just host but play on the field also. The Allegheny Valley School District totally re-vamped Veteran’s Field in to a state of the art facility, the envy of any school district in the area. With their permission we played all our home games in the best stadium in our league and provided the best game conditions for a Super Bowl ever in the UYFL.
The ’05 Jaguars started slow, losing games at the beginning of the season by giving the games to opponents through errors. But soon the Jaguars turned that around and started to tear apart opposing teams with a bruising offense and quick defense, just missing a Super Bowl appearance. The Panthers of 2005 had great expectations and they lived up to them. This team led by Head Coach Barry Brown and his staff put together another superb season, using a multi-formation high flying offense, they ran over and around opponents as well as throwing the ball like never before at this level. The Panthers also used an “In Your Face” Defense that dared teams to throw by crowding the line in game after game. The Panthers ended their season as Runner-Up, playing on their home field in the Super Bowl. The season was hard for the very young Cougar team, many new players and tough competition worked against them, but in true to AVYFA pride they never quit and played as hard at the last whistle as at the first each game.
Again the Dynamo’s were laden with former AVYFA players on the huge squad that has consistently grown to overwhelming numbers for a Single A school district. School records were set by the offense and its players, most of whom were AVYFA stars in their youth days. While the odds of getting to Heinz Field were made harder by the WPIAL, again the Dynamos fell just short of another appearance in the big game.
The AVYFA has great players with the kind of potential that leads to Championships now and in the future. We, as a board, hope that our efforts provide the community with as much football excitement as possible. Our goal has always been to provide experienced leaders for the Dynamo Varsity Football Team and having a legendary coach like Chuck Wagner acknowledge the contributions of the AVYFA to the success of the Dynamo program, shows that we have remained true to our original objectives: a steady stream of experienced players for the high school, the opportunity for all children in the area to experience the majesty of Western Pennsylvania football, and above all, have fun. The AVYFA has in some ways exceeded its goal and expectations, but we realize there is much more work to be done, we will be ready for the challenges and of course the GAMES!
GO CATS !!
The 2007 season was a postive one for AVYFA, although not always reflected in the standings. The Jaguars were in the hunt for a playoff spot right up until the end of the season. The Panthers played great ball, and a play here or there, would have been in position to make a run at the playoffs. The Cougars made some of the best strides in learning the basics of football, and those boys will be a force to be reckoned with as the move forward in AVYFA.
The AVYFA Cheerleaders again had some of the best music, routines and cheers in the UYFL. The seniors who left were all 6 year cheerleaders.
With the strides and improvements made in 2007, look for successful season from all three squads in 2008.
At the 2007 banquet, Coach Wagner of the Dynamos announced his 2008 captains, and EVERY one of them is a former AVYFA player. The 2007 Dynamo team continued it's successful run with a return visit to Heinz Field for the WPIAL championship game. Although they lost a close game, the skills learned in AVYFA proved beneficial for the Dynamos.