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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Lansing youth football program instills Lions' system in youth

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  • As the offensive lined up in a shotgun formation, the coach barked out the play call.
    Players checked their play-calling wristbands to make sure they knew their assignments.
    This play in particular ended in a "Zulu" call, dictating that the flanking receiver, or "Z" receiver, would motion across the field before the ball was snapped and handed to the running back hitting the hole inside the offensive tackle.
    In its own right, the play could be pulled from any high school's offensive playbook. But on Tuesday night, it was sixth grade players occupying the practice field behind Lansing High School. And the coach calling the plays was Santino Maestas, one of four dads volunteering their time to coach their sons' youth football team.
    High school practice doesn't begin until Aug. 18, but that doesn't mean the Lansing High School playbook isn't being run on the practice field in the meantime.
    Maestas and the other coaches have been working with head Lansing football coach John McCall to ensure continuity between the system the youth team runs and the Lansing playbook. The sixth grade team is one of three Lansing youth teams playing football this fall in the Kaw Valley League against other area teams.
    It's youth football, but Maestas said the program is supposed to be the first step future Lions take before eventually playing under the lights on Friday nights.
    "Right away when he got here, Coach McCall was really open with having the kids out," Maestas said. "He sat down with his offensive guys and he was an open book. ... He was really great about not pushing a bunch of stuff down our throat. It was more get the kids used to the sets and the terminology and let them go from there."
    Anna Broeker, whose son Logan Buffo, plays on the sixth grade team said this is her son's second year playing with Maestas' football team.
    She said the youth program offers a great opportunity for her son to learn the ins and outs of the game of football and the Lansing system before beginning middle school football next year.
    "He will be able to fall right into their program," Broeker said. "They'll already have the skills established and then the coaches there can expand on them versus teaching them a whole new ball game."
    Maestas said he has been coaching his team in football and baseball for the last five years, but he said since McCall began his duties as football coach, he's noticed a much larger emphasis placed on the youth football program.
    McCall and his coaching staff sat down with Maestas this summer to discuss what system they'd be running and to introduce the team to Lansing's playbook, and Maestas said it gave the coaches an idea of how to give their players a basic understanding of the inner workings of the Lansing program.
    Page 2 of 2 - "That was one of the things he said, 'Don't try to reinvent the wheel, if it's working for you, use it," Maestas said. "The offense is a little bit simpler but it's the same thing."
    While the team used to participate in the Northeast Kansas Athletic Association, they made the switch to the Kaw Valley League last season because it meant less travel and the opportunity to play against schools they'd be seeing in the future as high schoolers.
    The Kaw Valley League required each coach to become certified with the United States Heads Up Football program before beginning the season, which ensured a better understanding of player health and safety.
    With a recent uprise in safety concerns with the sport of football, Maestas said it offered a good opportunity to make sure they were teaching the correct techniques to their players to make sure they were minimizing the risk of concussions.
    "It's really been a nice approach to the safety of the kids," Maestas said. "We're really lucky with our set of parents in this town. They're pretty trusting of the coaches here."
    Broeker said she felt confident that her son was in good hands.
    As a mother who knows other parents who shielded their kids from the sport, she said she thinks the youth program has a solid understanding of the safety risks and takes the right precautionary measures.
    "Head injuries come with kids playing around," Broeker said. "As long as they're cautious and they have their helmets and equipment, I feel pretty comfortable with it."
    The Lions youth football program will begin play Aug. 30 in a kickoff tournament before starting the regular season the following Saturday at the Field of Dreams complex in Basehor.

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