Mustangs youth football building upon recent success

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Aug. 9, 2013
The Mustangs' eighth-grade football team goes through stretching exercises. Photos by Corey AmEnde.
The Mustangs' eighth-grade football team goes through stretching exercises. Photos by Corey AmEnde.

The chirping of whistles emanates from various points at Labor Field on a warm summer night. The cheerleaders practice their cheers and the crunching sounds of colliding shoulder pads and helmets are the exclamation points that proclaim it’s once again football season.

The vibrancy of the East Hartford Mustangs Youth Football and Cheer program – with more than 200 participants - radiates from all corners of the park, but it wasn’t always this way.

The scene in 2013 is a stark contrast from 2011, when there were only about 20 players, and a lot of doubt.

“Everybody was telling me they were horrible,” said Tito Correa, the president of East Hartford Mustangs Youth Football and Cheer. “We took those kids and we went 7-1 with them and made the playoffs.”

Correa began volunteering for the Mustangs in 2011, and in February of 2012 he became the president. “I take a lot of pride in it because this didn’t look like this two years ago,” said Correa. “This is all new. This is the first time ever we’re fielding all six teams.”

The six teams are age- and grade-based, and range from second- and third-graders through eighth-graders. There isn’t a weight limit for the league, so every kid that wants to play football can.

“The overall philosophy is every kid in East Hartford gets a chance to play football at a price that’s affordable,” said Correa. The group charges $75 per child. Correa said it costs about $250 a child to suit them up, and the difference is made up through fundraisers.

The league plays an eight-game schedule in the All-American Division against towns within Connecticut. They play their home games at Goodwin Park and open the regular season the weekend of Saturday, Aug. 31, and Sunday, Sept. 1.

In addition to his role as president of the Mustangs, Correa also coaches the seventh-grade team. Last season, when the current seventh-graders were sixth-graders, the team outscored opponents 340-18 in 10 games and won the Central Connecticut Championship.

Correa said his long-term goal for the league is to have one football program in town, even if he has to field two teams at every level.

“I just think the experience, the way we play football is the best, as far as these kids not having to lose weight and being able to eat what they want,” said Correa.

Correa said he would like to become the feeder program for the high school and hopes that the success that he’s having with the young Mustangs will eventually develop into success at the high school.

Tylon Crump helps out with the eighth-grade team - which his son, Tylon Crump, Jr., is on - and knows first-hand about success at East Hartford High School: he was a member of its last state championship gridiron squad back in 1987.

“I just enjoy teaching kids, helping kids learn what their futures can be,” said Crump. “Coaching my son is just an added benefit of being able to spend extra time with him outside of the house.”

Football is not the only element of the Mustangs that has evolved, as the cheerleading program has also grown in size.

Lisa Martin, the vice president of the Mustangs, cheer coordinator and head coach for the 10-and-under squad, said the cheer team has nearly 40 people involved, including 31 girls.

The girls are divided into three teams based on age – 13 and under, 10 and under and Mighty-Mites, which starts at age 5 and can go up to 8, depending on skill level.

Martin coaches her 10-year-old daughter Taylor, and said that when Taylor first joined the program at age 5, it was much disorganized.

“Within the first three weeks I was ready to walk away and my daughter wouldn’t let me,” said Martin.

For more information on the Mustangs, visit www.easthartfordmustangs.com.


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