BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Bloomfield Jr. Bengals football and cheerleading program is getting ready for the season.
The program, for children in kindergarten through eight grade, is divided into several teams, by age. They are the A squad for eighth grade, the B squad for seventh grade, the C squad for sixth grade, the D squad for fifth grade, the E squad for third and fourth grades, and the flag football team for grades K-2.
The numbers are strong. According to James McDaniel, president of the program, there are a total of 315 football players and cheerleaders. That includes 125 tackle football players and 65 flag football players.
“These numbers are better than before COVID,” said McDaniel, who has been president for more than 12 years.
The players have been participating in conditioning sessions at Foley Field on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. throughout the summer.
McDaniel was grateful to administrators, school principals and Bloomfield Superintendent of Schools Sal Goncalves for helping to promote the program and encouraging the children to sign up.
The season begins on Sunday, Sept. 11, at Foley Field.
The head coaches are McDaniel for the A squad, Will Whitt for the B squad, Kevin Bretz for the C squad, Carlos Garced for the D squad and Thomas Knapp for the E squad.
In addition, McDaniel said the number of concussions has declined in youth football.
“Concussions are down in youth football due to the change of the rules of the game,” McDaniel said. “Tackling and blocking rules are designed to move the head from contact.”
The Jr. Bengals follow the recommendations of both USA Football and Tip of the Spear. McDaniel said representatives of Tip of the Spear, an Arizona-based organization, will be on hand to conduct a clinic on Aug. 14 at Foley Field to teach proper blocking and tackling techniques.
Football safety is also a main focus for the Bloomfield High School football program. BHS athletic director Steve Jenkins pointed out that the BHS football program has been using Guardian Cap helmet covers for many years. Those helmet covers have become popular, especially with NFL teams at their summer training camps.
“Bloomfield’s football program has been utilizing these for over a decade thanks to Coach (Mike) Carter and our training staff,” Jenkins said. “We were amongst the first to adopt them and have as large an inventory as any high school in New Jersey. Anecdotal data at our end confirms that they help reduce the number and severity of concussions.”
The Jr. Bengals coaches are looking to instill a love of the game and to teach the fundamentals.
“We have a lot of new players, and our goal is for them to fall in love with football,” McDaniel said. “If we install fundamentals of the game and discipline, winning will take care of itself. The winning is not always defined by the final score of the game.”
The program is seeking additional coaches. Anyone interested in becoming a coach in the program should contact McDaniel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 201-618-9383.
Photo Courtesy of James McDaniel.