Yancey County Youth League football teams are looking for a new place to play after being booted out of the conference they have competed in for years – maybe because they are too good.
Yancey youth football officials were notified that they would no longer be allowed to play in the league after protests from league officials in Avery and Mitchell counties.
“We were told by league president Stephen Poulas of Watauga County that we need to find a new place to play,” Yancey County Youth League President Tim Allen said on Friday.
Poulas told Allen that as long as Avery and Mitchell coaches refused to play Yancey teams, he has no other choice but to kick Yancey County out of the league.
Yancey County players had competed in the league with Avery, Mitchell and Watauga counties for the past two years, and Yancey previously played in a league with Mitchell, Avery and Madison.
The complaint from Avery and Mitchell officials is that the players from Yancey County do not meet the league’s age requirements and that a number of their players are being held back in school for the purpose of improving their future in sports.
“Every kid in our program has always met the age requirements of the league so I can’t see what the problem is,” Allen said.
“As far as kids being held back, the same thing goes on in Avery and Mitchell as well. It really is a parental decision,” he added.
Joey Robinson, Mountain Heritage’s head varsity football coach and the school’s athletic director, agreed with Allen saying that he even offered birth certificates as proof but no one was interested. “If our kids were overage they would not be allowed to play in the youth league, middle school or the high school.”
Robinson went on to say that all of his players are of legal age and that neither he nor any of the coaches in any division in Yancey County was going to apologize for all of the hard work and subsequent success that their teams have had over the years. “Our players, on every level, work extremely hard, getting bigger and stronger in order to compete on the field and if we changed the way we are doing things it would only reward mediocrity, and we refuse to do that.”
Robinson said that the teams playing against Yancey County Youth League teams now will see the same players as they progress all the way through the high school ranks. “I will not apologize for working closely with our youth league and middle school teams,” Robinson added.
Robinson has worked with the youth league since becoming head coach to establish a program for young players and groom them for middle and high school teams in the same way that baseball, softball and soccer players learn those sports at an early age.
When he started the cooperative effort, the high school did not have a winning team and it was difficult to recruit players for the team.
Robinson said it would take years to begin seeing the results of the early training. The plan has paid off big time as both the middle and high school teams are claiming titles in their conferences. A Yancey middle school team consistently claims the Tri-County Bowl title and the high school Cougars advanced to play for the state title.
Last year, Mitchell and Avery parents mounted an effort to pull out of the middle school conference because they couldn’t beat Yancey. The superintendent’s from the three counties got together and decided to keep the Toe River Conference in tact.
Options being considered for the Yancey Youth League teams this season include joining a new conference with teams from North Buncombe and Madison counties or taking part in a league involving Polk County and East Rutherford.
“Obviously we would like to stay close to home and join the league with North Buncombe and Madison,” Allen said. “But if we do have to travel to Polk County it will probably make our players more competitive in the long run,” he added.
Allen said that as of this past Friday nothing had been decided and that he is waiting on word from the officials from North Buncombe and Madison who are considering a move from the Pop Warner league in which they currently compete and forming a new conference that would include Yancey County.