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Resurrecting youth football in the Five Towns


“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow” was written six centuries before football was conceived but no less applicable to the small group of children and teenage and adult mentors who gathered on the Five Towns Community Center field in Lawrence on Nov. 21 to learn and teach a few basics of the game with a larger goal in mind.

Inwood resident Ilyssha Shivers who oversaw the Saturday clinic is aiming to resurrect a local youth football program similar to what the Inwood Buccaneers Athletic Club offered young people until the organization went dormant in 2018.

Five children and three Lawrence High School varsity football players ran through an assortment of agility drills with intermittent water breaks during the clinic’s roughly 90 minutes. “Foot work, agility and conditioning is important,” said Shivers, who previously was a Buccaneer football coach.

Golden Tornado players John Calderón, a senior guard and linebacker; Mark Dennis a junior offensive lineman and Jahsir Gayle, a junior quarterback and linebacker, worked with the kids which included CJ Lombardo, Tristan Primer, Trinity Primer, Elijah Shivers and Judah Shivers, Ilyssha’s sons. Joshua Shivers, his nephew, a Lawrence High freshman, also helped out.

CJ’s dad, Charles Lombardo, a former Lawrence football player in the early 2000s, who played under coach Lou Andre, also served as a Buccaneer coach, said that playing the game helped him keep on the straight on narrow.

“It’s a good game that builds character and discipline and the kids see that there are good people who are willing to help,” said Lombardo, who credited middle school coach Steve Politano with being a mentor to him. Politano was honored as an Inwood Citizen of the Year in 2019. Lombardo also played a season of football at upstate Morrisville, then a junior college.

Shivers said parents contacted him and moving forward he hopes to have more children playing, especially should there be high school football games in the spring to stimulate interest.

“We have a good foundation and a good formula,” said Shivers, acknowledging that people are hesitant to get involved now because of the pandemic. He was also appreciative that Lawrence head football coach Jason Supple allowed his players to take part. “We are not going to stop,” Shivers said.