Vipers already looking strong this season

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Fri., Aug. 9, 2013
JT, 8, a member of the Vernon Vipers Mighty-Mites, helps a teammate with his helmet on the first night of practice with shoulder pads. Photos by Steve Smith.
JT, 8, a member of the Vernon Vipers Mighty-Mites, helps a teammate with his helmet on the first night of practice with shoulder pads. Photos by Steve Smith.

Although the first games aren't for a few weeks, the Vernon Vipers are already having a banner year – one that will hopefully end with some championship banners.

With more than 120 players and 70 cheerleaders, this year's youth football program has the highest level of participation on record. All four age levels (A, B, C and Mighty-Mites) have full rosters, and expectations are high.

Vipers president Eric Hagelin said the A squad has started the season with only about a dozen players for the past several years, but this year, there are 26 suiting up.

“We've got quite a few kids this year,” Hagelin said. “That usually doesn't happen.”

The players, Hagelin said, are excited. The program was rated #2 in the league overall last season. Last year's Mighty-Mites had an undefeated 8-0 season, which translates to high expectations for this year's C-team, which happens to be coached by Hagelin's father and former Vipers' president, Scott Hagelin.

“I have to defend that, because I have most of those kids now. These guys are good. I've never had a team with this much speed,” Scott said.

Eric Hagelin said there is also a closer relationship with the Rockville High School football team. RHS coach Steve Shortman and several players have been helping at Vipers' training camp.

“Hopefully, we can get the two programs to really come together,” Eric said, adding that while the win/loss record is important to retain interest on the youth and high school levels, the real win is in the participation.

“I really don't care if they go 0-8,” he said. “If you've got kids that are doing this and staying out of trouble, that's the biggest thing.”

This year's players will also be playing more safely. A new program through USA Football is being implemented. The Heads-up Tackling program was taught to all of the Vernon coaches at a mandatory 2.5-hour seminar. It teaches proper techniques for tackling, including how to get into position for tackles (using more of a vertical movement, as opposed to a head-first, horizontal motion) which is supposed to translate to fewer concussions and other injuries.

“It's proven to do really well,” Eric Hagelin said. “It will help our coaches to teach the kids better.”

For more information, visit www.vernonyouthfootball.com.


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